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

Aldergrove Easter event line-up for families staying local

Easter egg hunts in apple orchards, bouncy castles, facepainting, bunny-petting and more.

Young ukulele players wow Langley audience

The performance highlights several upcoming concerts.

Langley police seek new leads in hit and run cold case

Six years ago, someone struck a young woman with a car and drove off

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Langley gymnasts golden at provincials

LGF and Flip City win multiple all-around champion awards

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Man driving wrong way on Highway 17 ‘seriously’ injured after crash: Surrey RCMP

Police say the driver hit a transport truck, then another car after merging from the off-ramp onto highway

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Rare ‘Snow Tower’ tree blooming in Vancouver city park

A plant rarely grown in Canada is now flowering at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Most Read