Giving gathering

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Canadians have once again opened their hearts and wallets to ensure four St. Albert hockey players killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash will not be forgotten.

More than 600 people proudly donned jerseys of all colours, representing teams from a cross-section of sports, at the Enjoy Centre Friday night. They turned out to pay tribute to Logan Hunter, Jaxon Joseph, Conner Lukan and Stephen Wack, and raise money for four scholarships set up in their honour.

The four players were among 16 killed in the April 6 bus-truck collision near Nipawin, Sask., that stunned Canadians and touched hearts around the world. Thirteen others were injured in the crash.

Friday’s Jersey Gala was an eye-catching and overwhelming display of caring that has left a lasting impression not only on those who attended but on all city residents.

It offered inspiration, strengthened a community bond and created a lasting legacy for the four players who were members of various St. Albert Raiders Hockey Club teams before embarking on their junior careers.

From former CBC TV anchor Peter Mansbridge’s message of hope, to a performance of Sticks Out By The Door by Ontario musician Jason (Smitty) Kingston, to an ex-NHLer’s surprise gift to a victim’s family, there were countless touching moments that will resonate for years to come.

“What we saw in the outpouring of collective support and what we still see today was Canada – a Canada (where) no matter who you are or what you believe, you care,” Mansbridge said Friday night.

It’s a poignant quote. The Humboldt Broncos tragedy united our country in a way few things can – and Canadians remain united in an effort to remember those lives lost.

During the gala’s live auction, former Edmonton Oiler Paul Coffey offered a $10,000 bid for a guitar signed by Canadian music icon Tom Cochrane, who performed Big League before the capacity crowd. Coffey won the guitar and then, in a heartwarming gesture that brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance, gave it to Jaxon’s father and Oiler alumnus, Chris Joseph.

More tears flowed as a choked-up Joseph, representing the four families, thanked the crowd for its “incredible” love and support that has buoyed the families’ spirits in the months following the tragedy.

“People have given so much of themselves to ease our grief,” he said.

The St. Albert Humboldt Remembrance Committee, which organized the gala, said Monday approximately $438,000 has been raised through its fundraising efforts. After covering the costs of the gala, memorial benches and hockey stick memorial, the campaign netted about $350,000 for four scholarships. As a result, each scholarship with be worth about $90,000.

“With the outstanding support of our community, we have been able to raise the necessary funds to create a lasting memory for the players’ families, friends and fans,” said committee chairman Nolan Crouse.

These scholarships are more than just a dollar figure. While the scholarships themselves honour the four St. Albert boys, they are a result of the love and support from all of Canada. That’s a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.

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St. Albert Gazette

The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.