Hats fundraiser for paralyzed Humboldt Broncos player takes off

Alberta couple wanted to help Ryan Straschnitzki, who was paralyzed in the April bus crash

Susan Bissonnette works on hats at her home in Airdrie, Alta., Thursday, June 7, 2018. She volunteered to make Ryan Straschnitzki hats as part of a fund raising campaign for the injured Humboldt Broncos player and the extra care he will need once released from hospital. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A couple who offered to help with a promotion to fundraise for a paralyzed hockey player soon found themselves wearing too many hats.

Jason and Sue Bissonnette were making baseball caps to make money to help with the costs of Ryan Straschnitzki’s rehabilitation, but they couldn’t keep up when thousands of requests started rolling in.

“I thought maybe there will be a couple of hundred hats and we’ll do our part,” said Jason Bissonnette. “We’ll be part of a few grand or something, but of course that didn’t exactly work out that way.

“We’re now over 3,600 hats that have been ordered.”

The Bissonnettes didn’t know Straschnitzki before the teen from Airdrie, Alta., was paralyzed from the chest down in a crash between a semi-trailer and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos Saskatchewan junior hockey team in April.

But they felt an immediate bond because they also live in Airdrie, just north of Calgary, and their son played hockey for years when they were living in the United States.

“He was a goaltender and was travelling just like these guys. It hits close to home to a lot of people,” Sue Bissonnette said during an interview in the family home.

READ MORE: Teen paralyzed in Humboldt bus crash going south for treatment

The couple owns a company called The Stitching Bees, which provides promotional items for businesses as well as doing embroidery.

Several Airdrie dads had come together the day after the crash and came up with the idea of hats to help raise money for the Straschnitzki family.

The first cap — with the green and gold Broncos colours, Ryan’s No. 10 on the front and #strazstrong stitched on the back — was done just hours later.

“Those are Ryan’s colours,” said Sue Bissonnette, pointing to large spools of thread on an embroidery machine.

The couple eventually received help from Bruce Fogel of Embroidery Systems in Calgary, who offered the use of extra machines he had in stock.

Volunteers weren’t able to run the machines, though, so she was responsible for the first 1,900 hats that were made before the job was outsourced to a Montreal company.

“I felt like I’m drowning — there’s way too many,” she said. “At that point there was 1,500 hats ordered and I was on my 100th hat and I thought, ‘Oh my God. I’m going to be sick.”

The suggested price for the hats is $30, but Jason Bissonnette said many people have been giving $50 or $100 for just a single hat.

“We’ve generated over $82,000 and that’s straight to the family.”

A fundraiser for the Straschnitzki family is to be held in Airdrie next Saturday. About 150 of the hats, signed by Ryan, will be on sale.

His mother, Michelle Straschnitzki, said the Bissonnettes have been tireless in their efforts.

“They’re amazing people. They really just started out because they wanted to help and thought it would be a fun idea. It just kind of snowballed,” she said.

The Straschnitzki home will need to be totally renovated to include an elevator. Walls need to be moved, doorways widened and the bathroom adapted.

“We haven’t got a clue how much it will cost … but we’ve had a lot of people offering to help. Basically we’re just accepting help and are appreciative of it.”

Ryan, who is 19, is undergoing physiotherapy at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Meachen Creek fire sees minimal growth overnight

Winds have pushed the fire back into itself in the lower part of the Meachen Creek drainage.

Kootenay fires grow — more evacuation alerts

Syringa fire prompts evacuation alerts plus HWY 3 closure and U.S. fire crosses into B.C.

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Meachen Creek fire changed little overnight

Mayor reaches out to thank community; evacuation alert notices are being delivered door to door so no one is missed

Castlegar bridge designed by architect of collapsed Italian bridge

Riccardo Morandi designed the Kinnaird Bridge, which is part of Highway 3.

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read