P.A.’s Paralympian gets a surprise visit

Paralympian Brittany Hudak, right, talks with her family using Canadian Tire’s red door at Prince Albert's local Canadian Tire store. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

Brittany Hudak’s family paid her a surprise digital visit using Canadian Tire’s red door

She may be 8,700 kilometres away on the other side of the world, but Prince Albert’s Brittany Hudak got a surprise visit from her family on Saturday evening.

Ahead of her second event at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Hudak’s family, friends and former coworkers surprised her with a virtual visit via Canadian Tire’s red door campaign.

The local Canadian Tire store on the south side of P.A. is where Hudak had one of her first jobs, during which an elder Paralympian scouted her as a potential recruit to world-class competition.

On Saturday, the retail outlet set up a giant red door, filled frame to frame with a live video feed of the cross-country skier in South Korea.

It’s part of the company’s red door campaign, which it’s hosting across Canada as a way for the country’s athletes to connect with their loved ones back home.

As the giant red door opened on an eager Hudak, she saw her waiting mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law and young nephew waiting on the other side.

Soon after, she was greeted by grandparents, relatives, close friends and former Canadian Tire coworkers.

“It’s been really exciting since I got to the games,” she said, noting the overwhelming nature of preparing for her first event, the women’s 6 kilometre standing biathlon on March 10. “I’m feeling really ready to race, just with everyone reaching out and wishing good luck.

“It really makes it easier to just feel ready to perform and do my best, knowing that so many people are rooting for me,” she said.

Hudak finished the first race in eight spot, with a final time of 19:22.6. Her teammate Emily Young finished one spot ahead of her in seventh place.

Being absent of family and friends in South Korea hasn’t been an issue for her either, thanks to Young.

Paralympian Brittany Hudak’s family talks with her using Canadian Tire’s red door at the local P.A. Canadian Tire store. Family members include, from centre left, mom Rhonda, dad Dave, her sister-in-law, her brother and her nephew. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

“Her parents and a lot of her family here have made signs for myself as well,” she said. “So I think knowing that we have such a good cheer squad in the stands, and knowing that we have an entire country behind us is a pretty incredible feeling.”

Her mother, Rhonda Hudak, talked about how proud she is of her daughter representing Canada at her second Paralympic Games.

“I think she’s adopted,” the elder Hudak said with a laugh. “Ever since she was really young, she’s always been very independent.

“When she was born, she had part of an arm missing and you expect – you want your kids to succeed.

“But she has so passed what I thought she would be, like it’s unreal. She never says ‘can you help me,’ or ‘I can’t do it.’ She just does it,” her mom emphasized.

“She’s very self-sufficient, very confident. She’s amazing.”

Rhonda also said how happy she was by the job Canadian Tire had done with the red door campaign.

“To get to see her and have all her family and friends, the support; it’s been amazing. This was awesome what they did for us.”

Hudak’s next race was set for Monday night at 9:30, Saskatchewan time. A final result was not available by press time.

Following that race, she’ll compete in the women’s classic style 1.5 kilometre cross-country sprint on Tuesday, at 12.5 kilometre standing biathlon on Thursday and the 7.5 kilometre class standing cross-country race on Friday evening.

If she’s selected for that relay team event, she’ll compete in that on Saturday.