It initially started as a way to provide comfort to the grieving and injured.
But the Quilts for the Broncos campaign has reached far beyond just the players and families of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.
When Wendy Toye, owner of Haus of Stitches in Humboldt, heard about the tragic accident that took the lives of 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey team and injured 13 others, her first thoughts were to make 29 quilts for everyone who was on the bus. “A quilt is like a hug that brings comfort to those injured and to the families of those lost,” said Toye. “But, within a couple of days, it was obvious that many more than just the families had been impacted by this tragedy.”
SHA blankets with quilts SHA staff in Nipawin, Tisdale, Melfort and Saskatoon receive quilts as a show of thanks for responding the night of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and for continuing to provide care and support to the players and families in the days that followed.
Toye and her team of quilters decided to extend their campaign to the first responders, emergency services personnel and the physicians and staff of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) who responded April 6, the night of the accident. “We felt that giving quilts to all those who worked that night and beyond to take care of the injured and the deceased was just a way that we could say thank you for all that they have done for our team from the citizens of Humboldt and to let them know that we very much appreciate all that they do,” said Toye. “Although we have heard many comments from workers that they were ‘ just doing their job,’ we felt this was a way to show them how grateful we are for what they do and, in many cases, know they went above and beyond on that fateful night.”
Toye put the call out to quilters far and wide hoping to get about 200 additional quilts made but the response far exceeded her expectations. “We received quilts from not only every corner of Canada and the United States but from all over the world, including the UK, Brazil, Qatar and Australia,” she said. ”They came in envelopes that held one hand sewn block to pallets on semi-trucks with 83 completed quilts. To date we have received over 2,100 finished quilts, 1,600 tops and about 8,000 blocks.”
Rick Peters, director of Health and Safety for the SHA, said the Mental Health and Addictions Services team provided the Good Samaritans in the Nipawin, Tisdale and Melfort areas who responded that night with a critical incident stress debriefing session and distributed the quilts to them. “The Good Samaritans hold a very special place in our team’s hearts,” said Peters. “Of the 30 people who attended the debrief, most of them came in looking terrified but they left looking less scared and with some skills to manage their experience. I know they were touched by the gift of the quilts.”
Karen Newman, site leader for Saskatoon City Hospital has been helping distribute quilts to Saskatoon staff and physicians who responded the night of the accident and who have been providing care and support afterwards . She said the gift of the quilts is a surefire way to put a smile on anyone’s face. “Aside from the fact that these are beautifully made quilts, everyone feels honoured to be included in such a meaningful campaign,” said Newman. “It’s truly heartwarming.”
For Toye, the experience has been overwhelming but she said the gratitude from those who received the quilts has made the initiative worthwhile.
“The outpouring of love and concern that our community has received from around the world has been amazing,” she said. “While reading some of the letters and notes that came with the quilts, you know that a lot of thought went into the making of them and that they were all sewn with love and caring for whoever would receive them.”
Toye said that while their goal was to provide healing and comfort to those impacted by the crash, the quilters discovered that the campaign had healing benefits for them, too. “It helped to have a purpose and do something that helped us heal while helping others,” she said. “And we never realized the world-wide healing it provided for everyone who made and sent the quilts. The notes and heartfelt letters we received with quotes like ‘It just felt so good to sit down and sew,’ or ‘Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide comfort to someone.’ People just needed to do something and the quilts provided that.”