By Dave Leaderhouse
When the Humboldt Broncos bus crash occurred over a month ago there was immediate and overwhelming support from people to help those who were directly affected by the tragedy.
A Go Fund Me page was established and donations poured in resulting in more than $15 million being collected for the families of the 29 people either killed or injured in the accident. Corporate sponsors stepped forward to help the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League establish an assistance program and just recently a benefit concert was staged where more money was raised to aid the families of the victims.
Beyond these highly visible and truly admirable acts of kindness were others and one that flew right under the radar was a fundraiser that tied two unheralded groups together.
“I think it was the Saturday after the crash and we were having our usual group chat with guys who ref in the league,” recalls Joel Thiessen, an SJHL official who spearheaded the effort to show their support following the accident. “When we saw how well the Go Fund Me page was doing, we thought let’s look somewhere else and help someone else who played an important role.”
Their choice was the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, or STARS, an air ambulance organization that played a vital role in helping those who were injured at the accident scene.
“I think they were rather impressed that we kept them in mind,” says Thiessen. “With everything that was going on, I think they were generally impressed that they were thought of.”
Thiessen sent out an e-mail to the referees who work in the SJHL and that was soon passed on to officials from across Western Canada. In that e-mail he was seeking financial assistance, large or small, with the final total to be presented to STARS.
The end result was a presentation of $8391.00 which Thiessen says was just a small way for the referees to show that they care and support everyone affected by the tragedy.
“Something like this really hits home,” states Thiessen, whose brother Devin is also an official in the league and was in fact on his way to Nipawin to work the game the night the accident occurred. “Everyone thinks about all the miles the teams put on the bus, but we do the same. We travel from all over to work games.”
“It was a total team effort; everyone helped out,” added Thiessen.
From the darkness always comes a light and what the referees did in a short period of time certainly casts a glow on two exceptional groups: the officials and the life-saving skills of those from STARS.