A Grade 11 Pen High student was close to tears as he explained why he spent his day off school Thursday helping raise funds for the Humboldt Broncos at a fundraiser at Sherwood Trophies and Sherwood Signs and Graphics.
“It’s a terrible tragedy what happened. I’ve gone on buses with teammates before. I feel really bad at what happened and wanted to give back as best I could,” Taylor Crook said while taking a short break from cutting out Bronco Strong decals about a half hour before the fundraiser officially kicked off.
Kerry Stuckel, the driving force behind the fundraiser that will see more than 1,000 Bronco Strong shirts, decals for vehicles and hockey helmets sold, said it’s things like Crook just calling up the store wanting to lend a hand and the owners and staff donating materials and time that helps her keep perspective amongst the tragedy.
Stuckel, originally from Lake Lenore, about a 25-minute drive from Humboldt, Sask., said she knows a lot of the families involved in the devastating fatal bus crash that took the lives of 16 people in the Bronco team organization a week ago.
“I’ve lived here now for 24 years, but I have really close family, all my family, my mom and dad live in Humboldt, lots of family back there. It’s really hard. Everyone is really deeply affected. It’s a small town. It’s only about 6,500 people, so everybody knows everybody,” she said. “I grew up in Lake Lenore, so that’s where the trainer that just passed away was from. I went to school with her folks.”
Stuckel watched the vigil Sunday night and saw the print shop in Humboldt was making T-shirts to support the team and community but was having a hard time keeping up.
“I phoned them on Monday to offer our services, and they said by that time they had lots of support in Saskatchewan asking to help, and then I thought maybe people in the South Okanagan might like an opportunity to donate and show their support,” she said.
Stuckel asked the owner of Sherwood Trophies, Frank Darin and owners Brent Darin and Christopher Trist of Sherwood Signs and Graphics if they wanted to do something in Penticton.
“(They said) ‘yes, we’ll do whatever we can to help.’ Everything we’re doing we’re donating. Everything, all of the costs are being absorbed by the business and everything we raise are going to the Broncos organization direct, so that’s the true motivation behind it. We just wanted to do something to show our support,” she said.
Hundreds of people have called the store since the businesses announced they were making the shirts and decals. At first, they thought a run of 200 would suffice, but realize now they’ll sell out of the 1,000 shirts made and have to make more. That means the fundraiser will raise more than $15,000.
Before the launch of the fundraiser at noon, dozens of people who had pre-ordered shirts including Summerland hockey mom Laurie Tutkaluk were at the business on Vees Drive picking up.
Tutkaluk has a 13-year-old son in hockey and also billets for the Summerland Steam.
“I’m still really emotional,” she said, her voice wavering. “You have these billet kids and they really become your kids and part of your family. I think about what happened to the Princeton bus and how that could have turned out different. I really hope these families know we are behind them and are supporting them. It’s such a tragedy.”
Sisters Jill Carberry and Cathy Buhler grew up in North Battleford, Sask., about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Humboldt. Buhler now lives in Penticton while Carberry resides in Calgary. Carberry is visiting Penticton and was one of the first in line to buy several shirts.
Her son played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the Notre Dame Hounds. She also has a stepson currently going up the ranks of the Junior A hockey league.
“It’s affected me as a hockey mom and my son as a hockey player as well. He is 6’ 5” and is 27 years old, now, and he phoned me and said ‘mom, I’ve cried for the first time in a really long time.’ I mean to support Saskatchewan. I’m from there, love it, know how strong the people are, know how great Canada has been and that’s why I’m here buying these T-shirts just to support the Humboldt Broncos, support my home province and support hockey and Canada as a whole.”
Shirts and decals will be on sale as long as there is a demand. The items are for sale by donation with a recommended donation of $15. All money is going to directly to the Humboldt organization. A fundraiser barbecue was also held Thursday with food and staff time donated by IGA.