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

UPDATE: Aurora Rafer has been found unharmed

RCMP have a man in custody and continue to investigate

The Sadies slide into the City on Nov. 6th

Popular band gearing up for a show at The Hideout

Recreational pot is now officially legal

Here are some things you need to know and how legal recreational pot will affect you in Red Deer

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

Alberta readies itself for cannabis sales with 17 stores (for now) and a new provincial website

WATCH: Canadian Finals Rodeo only two weeks away

Mayor calls CFR an opportunity to showcase Red Deer

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

After 50 years, ‘Sesame Street’ Big Bird puppeteer retiring

The puppeteer who has played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” is retiring after nearly 50 years on the show.

Britain, EU decide to take some time in getting Brexit right

Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said “we need much time, much more time and we continue to work in the next weeks.”

Parole denied for convicted killer-rapist Paul Bernardo after 25 years in prison

Paul Bernardo plead for release on Wednesday by arguing he has done what he could to improve himself during his 25 years in prison.

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Most Read