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A GoFundMe page set up by Humboldt residents, Sylvie Kellington and Cailin Hergott, to raise funds in support of families impacted by the tragic Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash has exceeded all expectations to become the largest GoFundMe campaign ever in Canada.

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“Our original goal was just to pay for coffee and parking for the families at Royal University Hospital, and maybe the meals. We just had very limited goals because we didn’t think it would go very far.”—Cailin Hergott

But clearly they underestimated the appeal of their campaign. Recently the fundraising surpassed the $10 million mark and is still trending. CEO of GoFundMe Rob Solomon notes, “What’s most phenomenal is the fact that people started giving in Western Canada, and it’s spread across the country, it’s spread across the states, and now the donations have come from 65 different countries.”

A Compelling Story 

How did this campaign motivate so many people to take some of their hard-earned money and go through the trouble of transmitting it online? Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, sees it this way: 

“It’s a bunch of young people so that makes us feel it’s more tragic. But what is more of a factor, is that in some way everyone has or knows someone who has a kid in soccer, hockey etc. A lot of people around the world can identify with that and can feel what a kick in the stomach it would be.

Kids working hard to make it, and parents supporting their child and trying to make their dreams come true. It may not be in the same geography, but there are similar communities across the world doing the same. So people resonate with this story, to the extent we can empathize with it. It makes people think of their kids.

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There is no doubt that images of the camaraderie and banter of a kids’ sports team on a bus getting jolted to a sudden and tragic stop—if we even have the stomach to roll this film in our minds—floods us with heartfelt empathy, and the kind of helpless regret that makes us want to act—any way we can—to be part of the healing of those personally affected.

The Humboldt Community

But what adds to all this is what we learn about the Humboldt community itself when we peer more deeply into the story. The Humboldt Broncos were not a mere sports team; they were an important part of the very fabric of their town of almost 6,000 strong.

Many of the players are from around the country, and they are unabashedly embraced by the people of the town. Rene Cannon, who was a host of two players killed in the crash, speaks for many in the town when she says, “We take every single boy that’s ever come into our house right into our hearts and into our family.”

And Jill Kellington notes that the accommodation between team and town is mutual. “They are such an integral part of our community,” she observes. “They go to our daughter’s school and work with the kids there.”

A New York Times article notes that “the Broncos play in an arena that rivals those used by professional teams. Some of the coaches are paid, but the team relies on an army of volunteers to function, and local boosters — a large percentage of the town’s population — somehow find a way to fund what amounts to an almost major-league-level, year-round operation.”

While the Humboldt Broncos provide some of the best junior-level hockey talent in the country with the ideal opportunity to take the next step towards their ultimate goal, they also represented a confluence of the dreams and aspirations of an entire community—to be an integral part of something bigger than themselves.

Our Hunger For Shared Purpose & Community

Perhaps this desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, often lacking in our own communities, is a big part of why the Humboldt Broncos’ GoFundMe campaign had such broad appeal.

And if such an event can help to shed light on the fact that we hunger for this kind of shared purpose, and motivate us to strive for and create more of these ties within our own communities, then perhaps the notoriety of this campaign can promote some healing not just for the people of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, but for all of us as well.

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