HumboldtStong Foundation gives back to northeast communities

First responders and medical personnel from Melfort, Tisdale, Nipawin and Zenon Park helped in the aftermath of the tragedy. Wednesday, those four communities received a big thank you from the HumboldtStrong Community Foudnation.

Kent Flavel (centre) presents a $100,000 cheque to the City of Melfort on March 27, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Jerald)

The communities that helped respond to last year’s tragic crash involving the Humboldt Broncos team bus received a big thank you Wednesday.

The HumboldtStrong Community Foundation presented cheques of $100,000 to Melfort, Tisdale and Nipawin, while Zenon Park received $50,000.

An additional $802,500 went to the City of Humboldt.

The foundation was set up to steward funds raised for the benefit of the players, employees, families, volunteers, emergency services, teams, related organizations and communities affected by the crash and its aftermath. It collected $4.2 million, money raised outside of the record-breaking GoFundMe campaign.

Of that $4.2 million, $1.9 million was allocated to support the families of the people on the bus, including money for health needs, accommodation, last wages, transportation and home modifications and funeral costs and other needs covered by the hockey team.

Additionally, $300,000 was provided for scholarships to players on the Broncos at the time of the tragedy and $25,000 was used for scholarships for players who were on the Nipawin Hawks at the time.

The remainder of the funds has been donated to STARS, Ronald McDonald House and OSI-CAN.

 “Priority one was to be there for any of the 29 families who needed financial help,” said foundation chair Darrin Duell in a press release.

‘Then we needed to recognize the incredible first responders, many of them volunteers, and others whose support we’ll never forget. We’ve asked that all of these gifts be put to use in a way that not only honours all those lost and injured but also the overwhelming response from the public.”

Kent Flavel, director of the foundation, said the communities of Melfort, Tisdale, Nipawin and Zenon Park were “instrumental” in providing support following the crash and in the days following.

Players were taken to Nipawin, Tisdale and Melfort hospitals, while emergency medical staff from those three communities and nearby Zenon Park responded to the scene.

Some firefighters staffed detour barricades in shifts until they were removed almost 48 hours after the collision.

‘We’re grateful for all the support, and showing our gratitude by paying it forward to these communities,” he said.

“Everybody threw down everything they were doing and rushed to the scene to provide support. Hopefully, these funds can be put to something long-term that can benefit these communities.”

Melfort Mayor Rick Lang said the city has had a few discussions on how to spend the funds but has yet to decide specifically how the $100,000 will be used.

“What we want to do for sure is find a project that is going to benefit the community … and something that will also honour the Humboldt Broncos team,” he said.

Many ideas have been proposed. Some are more connected to sports, and others to health.

“Some has been connected to the idea of something that would enhance the first responders, but as of yet, no final decisions have been made,” Lang said.

“There have been some great ideas. We have to give that a lot of thought and see what the best fit is.”

Like their neighbours in Melfort, the Town of Nipawin is also deciding exactly how to best use the $100,000.

One possible use for the money that has been floated in Nipawin is the construction of a helicopter landing pad at the Nipawin hospital emblazoned with the HumboldtStrong logo. Nipawin does not currently have a landing pad, so air ambulances touch down in a grassy area near the hospital.

Nipawin Mayor Rennie Harper said the town will gather input from the public before any decision is made.

One thing that is certain is the communities were touched to be recognized by the HumboldtStrong Community Foundation.

“We are truly overwhelmed by your recognition,” Harper said. “Please know that you can always count on us to be there for you, as I would never doubt that you would be there for us if we needed something also.”

Lang had similar thoughts.

“We truly appreciate the recognition,” he said.

‘What it does prove is that in a province such as this, we are all neighbours. On the ice, we might be competitors. But when it comes to how we interact with each other _ community to community — we are all neighbours, and we try to work together. The Northeast, in particular, is just one big community.”

Flavel agreed.

“It’s the Saskatchewan way.”

— With files from Susan McNeil, Nipawin Journal/Saskatoon StarPhoenix