Canadian support for Humboldt unyielding
Nedjelski joins scores of individuals doing something to help Broncos and families
Like most Canadians, Katie Nedjelski just wants to help Humboldt heal. So she jumped in her car and headed east of Calgary.
She headed home. To Humboldt.
While Canadians most certainly feel a bond with the tiny town, her ties run much deeper. Her brother, Joey Eaton, won a Royal Bank Cup with the Broncos in 2003 and she met her husband, Sheldon, in the late ’90s when he played for the local heroes.
Her family is so entrenched in the fabric of Humboldt that her father, Malcolm Eaton, was a three-term mayor from 2006 to 2016. They were Broncos billets for more than a decade.
After a week of watching the world give Humboldt hugs, her heart told her it was time to huddle up back home.
“I think it was just easy for me to come and help out, whatever that looks like,” said Nedjelski, who brought her youngest of two kids, three-year-old Finley, for the journey.
“Several of the kids my parents billeted have been coming back with their families and young kids the last week. People just want to be together, helping.
“Every store in town has a jersey or a sign in the window and everyone is pitching in.”
In a beautiful twist, the bus tragedy that claimed 16 lives has been the country’s most unifying event of a generation.
It’s hard to believe anyone on your street or at your office didn’t either contribute to the $12 million in GoFundMe donations, put a stick in front of their house or wear a jersey Thursday.
With every door-front stick you drive by, your heart swells a little.
Many of the people you passed last week wearing a jersey likely prompted a smile, a thumbs-up or conversation with strangers that wouldn’t ordinarily be exchanged. It brought our communities that much closer together, regardless of postal code.
Charity hockey games for Humboldt were played all over Canada on the weekend, with plenty more to come.
Vigils, rallies and even funerals in the hometowns of players and staff on the bus attracted larger than expected crowds of people showing they care.
Bake sales, family skates, 50/50 proceeds and countless other initiatives are in the works as people offer up any sort of assistance they can provide.
NHL and junior teams held stirring tributes for the Broncos, as did fans as far away as England, where chants of “Let’s Go Broncos” rang out in the EIHL final.
Old teammates from every possible sport felt the need to reconnect, inevitably reminding one another, “it could have been us,” or “those could have been our kids.”
Drake wore a Humboldt jersey courtside for the Toronto Raptors’ opening playoff game at the ACC, Brooke Henderson dedicated her LPGA tourney win to Humboldt and Canadian NASCAR driver D.J. Kennington plastered the Broncos logo on his hood.
Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Justin Trudeau, Paul Brandt, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jonathan Toews, Glen Gulutzan, Todd McLellan, Tom Jackson and Sheldon Kennedy raced out to stand bedside with the survivors.
They embraced and consoled family members of those lost in the bus crash. For all Canadians.
They brought gifts. The brought love and much-needed distractions. They wanted to help.
Among other things, Nedjelski brought her know-how, spending the last few days assisting a friend who owns a local business struggling to figure out how to mail out more than 10,000 orders of Humboldt Strong T-shirts.
“Dubai, the U.K., Finland, all over the U.S., the stack for Ontario is probably 1,000 orders itself,” said Nedjelski, who knows a thing or two about ecommerce as the owner of Bloom Kids. “They have one machine printing T-shirts. They said, ‘We know how to make stuff — but not ship stuff.’ ”
So, the lads and ladies at Purolator asked how they could help out, suggesting they bring equipment to make shipping labels. When they ran out of yellow ink, someone raced to Edmonton to get more.
WestJet and several local mines have sent employees. Everyone is sending their love. Think about the last time Canadians rallied around something to this degree. You can’t.
This team has had a historic impact on all of us — the likes of which we, hopefully, shall never experience again. As odd as that sounds.
“The way people have reached out and offered in small or big ways is pretty unifying, pretty powerful,” said Eaton a former principal who served the city for 13 years. “One of the fundamental human values is coming out, the compassion and caring in so many ways.
“Right now my wife is at the local sewing shop, making quilts for all the families.”
With quilts, their arms, their wallets, their sticks, their jerseys and their words, the nation is putting its arms around Humboldt in a way the nation has never done before.
So sad it took a tragedy to do so much good.