HUMBOLDT — This year’s citizen of the year isn’t a single person. It goes to all who offered support, assistance and comfort in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy.
The decision for the collective nomination was made by a panel of three judges tasked by the Humboldt Journal to select the winner of the award.
“Countless people rose to the occasion to give support and provide examples,” said one judge. “Many of them are nameless because we didn’t see what they did.”
Another judge wanted the honour to be shared by all involved in the tragedy, “to acknowledge the benefit and beauty of community, both local and global, supporting and serving one another for the sake of humanity.”
Kevin Garinger, who was the president of the Humboldt Broncos during the immediate aftermath of the April 6 collision, will accept the award at the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce’s Mark of Excellence Awards, on behalf of all those who provided assistance.
The past president has told the Journal in the past that it was public support and assistance that’s helped the team move forward.
“It was just a concerted effort across this province and across the country, across the globe, that really helped us navigate, in some ways, one of the worst tragedies anyone can imagine,” Garinger said. “We’re here in this place today, a long way from being done with healing but certainly on our journey and moving forward, which is really important, because of that.”
One of the nominations for the citizen of the year award talked about the memorial service held April 8 and how the words of Garinger and Broncos team chaplain Sean Brandow provided inspiration.
“I don’t want to be here, I really don’t want to be here, but it’s good that we are,” Brandow said at the memorial.
He talked about how he needed to hear from God, from Jesus Christ, in the days after the collision. “As Jesus appeared to his disciples after he rose again, many of them wondered if it was Jesus. I’ve heard so many times: ‘I wonder if this community will ever be the same?’
“You know how Jesus showed that he was who he said he was? His scars. A scar is something that is healed but still there. This isn’t going to go away,” Brandow said. “Can we heal? Yes. Will the scar be there? Yes.”
Garinger said the aid of the City of Humboldt was key to pulling off the memorial.
“There’s no rule book for any of this. There’s no playbook, so for the city to have orchestrated and really done that work, that was really critical too,” he said. “It just spoke to the need and the desire to want to do everything to try and help in the most positive and most effective way.”
The people of Humboldt took action after the collision.
Sylvie Kellington started a GoFundMe campaign that raised nearly $15.2 million. The original goal was $5,000, but it continuously had to be increased as more and more people donated.
“Who would have ever thought that it would reach worldwide?” Kellington told the Journal back in April.
Wendy Toye with the Haus of Stitches wanted to sew quilts for the 29 on the team bus. Word got out and soon quilters across North America sewed more than 500 quilts to be sent to other affected groups.
“When you look at the number of people who have been traumatized by the whole thing, it just grows and grows,” Toye said at the time.
Mike and Shannon Yager of Spotlight Sport and Corporate Wear produced Humboldt Strong T-shirts, donating $20 from each $25 shirt. That resulted in a $304,000 cheque in July for the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation.
After finding out that Bronco Logan Boulet was an organ donor and that his organs saved the lives of six others, people all across the nation signed up to become organ donors themselves.
These are only a few of the many actions people took to provide support, assistance and comfort in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy. The citizen of the year award honours everything that was done – reported or not reported.
The award will be presented at the Mark of Excellence Awards on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at the Uniplex. The event starts at 5 pm. Tickets are available by calling the chamber at 306-682-4990.