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Helping Houston

As Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Texas, Jeff and Julie Petry were quick to help with donations

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

MONTREAL - With Houston still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the Petrys are stepping up to help.

Julie Petry - wife of defenseman Jeff Petry - hails from the Southeast Texas town that was ravaged by high winds, record rainfall and disastrous flooding as the Category 4 storm brutally battered everything in its path.

While Julie's immediate family members weren't directly affected by the disaster, Houstonians aplenty were displaced and forced to abandon their homes and their belongings. That spurred the couple to act and donate to several key causes providing immediate assistance.

As parents of two young sons - two-year-old Boyd and four-month-old Barrett - helping to care for the well-being of infants was atop their priority list.

"Being a new mom, the Texas Diaper Bank was a huge one for me. You always think of the babies when this happens. I saw countless pictures of babies being floated in Rubbermaid containers out of their homes and going to the shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center. There are so many mothers and fathers who have no diapers, no cribs and no playpens for their kids. That really hit me hard," Julie said. "We wanted to help provide for the new babies coming into this world and provide for their parents, just the essentials they need for their children to survive."

Supporting the welfare of animals displaced by Harvey was also important to the Petrys, who are dog owners themselves, which led them to contribute to Friends For Life, a service focused on assisting evacuees and their pets at local shelters.

Likewise, Jeff and Julie became one of nearly 200,000 donors to NFL star J.J. Watt's remarkable Houston Flood Relief Fund campaign that has raised over $30 million dollars over the last two weeks for victims of what will likely be the costliest natural disaster in United States history to date.

Admittedly, watching events in the Lone Star State unfold from afar has the Petrys eager to do whatever they can to lend their support from Montreal.

"It's super emotional. When you're on the phone with your mom and dad every day, checking in with friends and hearing all the different stories that are going on and seeing places you used to run around in completely covered in water, it hits you so much harder. Just being so far away, you feel super helpless. In the moment, you want to be there, but you can't," Julie explained. "It's terrible."

While the Canadiens' blue-liner might not be a native Texan, images of Harvey's aftermath have been just as hard for him to process, too.

"It's tough to watch, seeing people being put in that situation and fighting to get out of their houses. Just a couple of miles down the street from Julie's parents' house is the hotel we stayed at for our wedding [in July 2012], and water was up to the second floor," Jeff said. "Seeing pictures like that, places covered in water, is completely shocking to me."

Amidst all of Harvey's destruction and tragedy, though, the Petrys saw the best of a city that means so much to them really shine through.

"It's amazing to see the strength that everybody responded with. They put themselves behind and just started helping each other. That's probably the only good thing that came out of Harvey, seeing the city and the community that I grew up in totally respond to the challenge with such might. Nothing could tear them down even though the worst happened," Julie mentioned. "Everybody who could help, took the next step. That's what's amazing - something so devastating brought out so much."

Now, it's up to locals and those abroad to continue helping with Houston's long-term recovery - which will undoubtedly take years.

"These people shouldn't be forgotten. These people don't want to be forgotten. You just want to make sure they get through it, get back on their feet and aren't just left without any support. Some don't have a home to go back to. Some don't have flood insurance," Julie said. "They're going to need help for a while."

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