‘It represents hugs from all these strangers’: Humboldt comfort blanket project brings people together from coast to coast

Watching the news about the Humboldt bus tragedy last month, Michele Kane wanted to reach through her TV and give the people she was seeing a hug.

“My mouth just fell open,” she said of hearing that 16 of the 29 people on the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team’s bus were killed when it collided with a truck.

“As a mom you put your kids on those buses and you send them off to whatever event they’re going to.”

So she posed the question to her fellow Canadian Crocheters in a Facebook group, do you think we could get enough squares to put together blankets for each person lost?

“That’s how it started; well that’s not how it ended,” said Kane from her Winnipeg home, where she’s now up to her “eyeballs in yellow and green squares.”

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Kane told people to send the squares her way, and she would make them into the blankets. She estimates she now has about 1,500 squares in her dining room, 1,000 stored at a local Michaels store and another 1,000 in transit, she’s even gotten a couple from Nunavut and the Yukon.

“My mail comes by truck now,” she said with a laugh.

While the cut-off date for mailing was last Friday more are arriving every day.

The instructions were simple, crochet a 12-by-12 inch square in the team’s colours.

Rebecca DeWitt, a crocheter in Edmonton, said she doesn’t have any personal connection to Humboldt, but wanted to help in the way she knew how. She made eight squares before she ran out of green yarn.

“It was just pretty heartwarming to see everybody come together and I wanted to be part of it,” DeWitt said of the project, “helping someone in some small way to bring them comfort.”

Logan Hunter, 18, and Stephen Wack, 20, from St. Albert; Jaxon Joseph, 20, from Edmonton; Parker Tobin, 18, from Stony Plain and Conner Lukan from Slave Lake were all killed in the crash.

Tyler Smith from Leduc, Alta. and Derek Patter, from Edmonton, were also injured. The crash has drawn an outpouring of sympathy and support from around the world with a GoFundMe for the team raising over $ 15 million.

The Fibre Nook in Edmonton shipped off 96 squares a few days ago, said manager Clifton Price. Some of his regulars suggested the knit shop as a drop-off point.

“They came in and said, ‘I have squares, where do I put them?’” he said with a laugh. “We’re very happy to be a spot for that.”

Kane has recruited a team of crocheters to help her assemble the blankets, making sure each blanket has squares from different people in different parts of the country.

Two trucking companies have volunteered to transport them to the team in Humboldt. Now that there will be much more than one for each of the 29 people on board, she hopes to give the others to the mayor, team staff, and first responders.

It’s not about needing a blanket, Kane said, but about showing that even if they can’t be there, people are behind them.

“It represents hugs from all these strangers,” she said. “Saying, it’s going to be OK, we’ve got your back, we’re with you.”

TORONTO STAR

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