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Help, donations, support and prayers pour in after Humboldt Broncos tragedy

 Reaction to tragedy: outpouring of love, support, prayers, assistance of all kinds

By Blake Sittler

The April 6, 2018 accident involving a semi-trailer truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, coaches, staff, and play-by-play announcer is both an incredibly devastating loss for many families of a son, a husband, a father, a friend, and a cataclysmic loss for the broader community.

The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming by any measure.

The Humboldt Broncos are part of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Every team in the league has offered some form of sympathy and support.

Every player and coach knows the camaraderie of riding the bus from game to game. Those bus rides are like cocoons of time during which players listen to music, watch movies, sleep, talk about the past or upcoming tournaments, and where, through the sharing of stories, friendships and bonds are formed that often last for decades.

Lynda and Cal Statchuk of Wadena know what it is like to send their sons on the road on a bus in the winter. Their boys also played in the SJHL.

“A team becomes so close they become a family,” Lynda shared. “The bus becomes a bonding place…they spend a lot of time together.”

“The parents see each other often at games at home and on the road,” Cal offered. “They become part of this family who will go the extra mile for each other.”

“As parents, we put our boys and girls on the bus [and] we think it is a safe place and pray that they will get to the game and back safely,” Lynda said.

In the National Hockey League, every team playing over the weekend made some effort to show that they were thinking of the Broncos. Some offered moments of silence and others, like the Blackhawks wearing the word “Broncos” on the backs of their jerseys. Many teams and arenas are offering the 50/50 proceeds towards the Broncos. Internationally, at a game in Sweden, the two opposing teams stood on the same blue line, arm-in-arm, for a moment of silence.

But this was not just a hockey tragedy – it was a human tragedy, with support and condolences coming from every corner of the planet, including from US President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and as well, Pope Francis.

"We don't know why tragedy and disaster comes, but we do know the One who holds us throughout that tragedy, and we celebrate today that the One who holds us is One of Mercy." said Bishop Mark Hagemoen during a Divine Mercy service at Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon April 8, with special prayer intentions for all those affected by the Humboldt Broncos tragedy. 

At that afternoon diocesan service, the bishop also read the message from Pope Francis sent by the Vatican Secretary of State: "Informed of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the road traffic accident in the province of Saskatchewan involving young hockey players, His Holiness Pope Francis sends his condolences to those who have lost love ones, and commends the souls ofthe deceased to the mercy of Almighty God. To all in the community at this difficult time Pope Francis sends his blessing."  

Earlier Hagemoen sent a message of condolences and prayers. “God continues to respond to us, and now He responds to the people of Humboldt and other parts of Western Canada who are profoundly affected by this terrible tragedy,” he said. “I am very thankful that at this terrible time, the people of God here show Christ-like compassion and care through such a community of support.”

Businesses offered their services. Airlines offered free flights. Hotels offered free accommodations to those coming into town to be with family.

Flags were lowered to half-mast all across the province at city halls and cathedrals and fire halls.

A Go-fund-me account was set up to collect donations to help families get through the next few months. The original amount organizers hoped to raise was $10,000. At the time of this writing, it is over $4 million dollars.

“That type of figure is staggering,” Bronco’s president Kevin Garinger said in Sunday’s press conference. “We will be ensuring that that process of how these dollars goes out respecting first and foremost respecting every one of the families that have been part of this tragedy.”

Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon, like many others, opened their doors for people to come together to offer silent prayers.

While the largest vigil was held in Humboldt, prayer services for the victims and families were held all over the province. One in Birch Hills attracted 150 people where 15 candles were put across a hockey net, one for each victim.

Another was held in Lloydminster. In attendance was radio personality, Kurt Price from Lloyd 95.9 FM and host of Sunday Morning Comin’ Down. “What really stood out for me…was how comforting it was to see so many familiar faces,” Price shared. “The community here celebrates together and it grieves together.”

Price had another connection to the tragedy as a broadcaster. “I was at a dinner theatre on Friday night when the news broke and we started to hear some preliminary numbers. I immediately thought of…Tyler Bieber (the local radio broadcaster killed in the crash),” recalled Price. “I knew so many people just like him and…I feel like I knew him”.

Price describes people like Bieber in broadcasting hockey games as community-oriented people who do not broadcast to get rich, but for the love of the game and the family that forms around the team.

“None of those people had to be on that bus, but every one of them wanted to be there,” he said. “I wanted to be around my extended family tonight, my community.”

“I've been thinking about him (Bieber) and all of those young men all weekend, the vigil tonight I hope starts the healing,” Price concluded. “I know it won't make the pain end for anyone overnight but we come together to start”.

Vice-president of Red Cross in Saskatchewan, Cindy Fuchs, said in a radio interview: “The Canadian Red Cross has been activated by the government of Saskatchewan…and have asked us to have our volunteers on the ground offering comfort and support.”

Saskatoon city councilor, Cynthia Block, tweeted that people were lining up to donate blood at Canadian Blood Services. She noted that they were actually having to turn locals away and were only accepting people who were from out of town.

Fred Farthing, a counseling psychologist with Catholic Family Services (CFS) in Saskatoon, described how on the night of the accident, the CFS executive director was contacted by the executive director of Partners Family Services in Humboldt, asking for assistance with crisis response. “Within hours, the Family Service Saskatchewan Network was able to respond by sending teams of mental health professionals from Kindersley, Melfort, and Saskatoon to Humboldt to help,” he said.

“We were there among the people to listen if they needed to share a moment of their grief and sadness,” Farthing described. “A number of people expressed gratitude for us just being present with them, as well as for talking with them about how they are coping.”

He added: “With the help of Daisy, our agency’s therapy dog, we listened as people shared, with faith and courage, their pain and sorrow in the wake of the tragedy.”

 

Jackie Saretsky, the coordinator of hospital chaplaincy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was in the midst of preparing a day-long Dying Healed workshop when the accident happened. “We have names and we’re getting connected with some of the players and families,” said Saretsky. “The hospital staff has been so good about letting us offer our time.”

“Some of the chaplains have set up a space on the fourth floor (of RUH) where families can come just to ask for prayers and talk,” continued Saretsky. “This is the beauty of this ministry being connected to the hospital.”

Saretsky was also offered prayer shawls and was told that one was included for each of the players and families with a personal note. The prayer shawls were forwarded by spiritual support staff at Humboldt hospital.

 

OVERFLOW CROWD AT ST. AUGUSTINE PARISH DURING PRAYER VIGIL APRIL 8:

Diocese of Saskatoon In Video