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

Darrell Paulovich remembered after accident claims his life

A tragic accident claimed the life of a rodeo advocate over the weekend

Wetaskiwin man facing 17 charges after Oct. 9 arrest

Wetaskiwin RCMP locate and arrest prolific offender

Millet fire chief says pay attention while driving to avoid collisions

Massive house fire last summer could have devastated Millet

South Pigeon Lake Fire Rescue boosted by new truck

New Rosenbauer TME pumper is state of the art

South Pigeon Lake Fire Rescue coping with busy year

Top call-out is medical response, second is motor vehicle collisions

Secret supper clubs test appetite for cannabis-infused food ahead of legalization

Chefs are eagerly awaiting pot edibles to become legal in Canada

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Dad files Charter challenge after B.C. bans kids from taking transit unsupervised

Adrian Crook is taking his fight to B.C. Supreme Court

Police investigate alleged arson at Toronto hotel housing asylum seekers

Police believe the fire was started intentionally, but they have not spelled out a possible motive

WATCH: Lots of rodeo action at Cowboy Classic Finals Rodeo

Many Red Deer contestants will be competing all weekend long

Atlantic Canada sees heavy rains, winds from post-tropical storm Michael

Parts of Newfoundland were forecast to get up to 40 millimetres before the storm is set to head out to sea

High times: optimism in Smiths Falls, the little town that marijuana saved

Home to fewer than 9,000 people, the Ontario town had become all too familiar with the pain of economic hardship over the years

UPDATE: Man dies in fiery multi-vehicle collision near Ponoka

Icy roads considered a factor in a serious three-vehicle collision on Highway 2

Most Read