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Flowers Help heal the Humboldt Community

“We were in shock as the whole community was, and we did what we all had to do here,” Brinkman said. “We were surrounded by amazing people—volunteers, florists from all over, people even walked in off the street to help.”

Brinkman and her three co-workers, including owner Kathy Poppel, were contacted by international flower growers, florists in neighbouring towns, and even consumers who had never previously patronized the shop, all asking to contribute what they could to help heal the community and send condolences. Companies such as Flowers Direct, Teleflora, and West Coast Floral repeatedly sent boxes of flowers and containers free of charge, assisting the small-town florist as daily shipments were rapidly dispersed to the hands and hearts of grieving recipients.

First, orders came in for wreaths and casket pieces for the funerals and memorial services held in emembrance of the 10 hockey players, two Broncos coaches, a radio broadcaster, a stats keeper, and the bus driver. Then, customers started placing orders to send to any and all establishments in the area.

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“We sent arrangements to schools, families, banks, head offices, City Hall,” Brinkman said. “People were asking to send flowers to anyone and everyone that was connected. We sent every form of flower you could imagine.”
While the staff worked, their neighbours stopped in with coffee, food, and embraces to boost their morale. Despite her sadness, Brinkman marvelled at how her community came together with empathy, consoling one another through the power of flowers.

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“Our community is so strong. We talk a lot, we cry a lot, and it’s part of the healing. Some of us are also silent, and the silence is okay, too,” Brinkman said. “I couldn’t have had a better crew. This will impact us for
the rest of our lives.”

A month after the accident, the staff received “the most amazing order,” Brinkman said. A group of women from Canada, the United States, and Finland, whose sons also play on youth hockey teams, banded together through the Twitter hashtag #HockeyMoms4Humboldt to order arrangements from the flower shop for Mother’s Day. The shop made 56 arrangements using the Broncos hockey team colours of yellow and green and sent them to the mothers who had lost their sons.

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“The Broncos boys came from all across Canada, so we sent arrangements as far as Saskatoon and Alberta, and we used yellows and greens to symbolize the team’s colours,”

Brinkman said. “The gesture showed them that this was a part of our world, this is healing for us, and we need to be healed.”

Nearly 20 florists from neighbouring towns reached out to volunteer and help in their own way. One such florist, Wascana Flower Shoppe in Regina, provided free bouquets to anguished customers. Creative director Tanya Anderson and her mother, Petra, the shop’s owner, brainstormed ways they could help the community and decided to give out yellow carnations, because they tied into the team’s colours. When they called their floral supplier (who wished to remain anonymous) and asked for 300 stems, the supplier said: “what about 900?” For days, customers stopped by the shop, grabbing 15 to 20 bunches of carnations at a time to distribute to people reeling from the tragedy.

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“A few people even stopped by and took buckets of bunches to the vigil in Regina,” Tanya Anderson said. “It was really humbling to see that, in a time of such grief, people were leaning on each other and bringing flowers to strangers, using the power of flowers to try and heal.”

Anderson recounted a variety of creative ways people in Saskatchewan, Canada, and abroad showed their support for the Humboldt Broncos and their loved ones. Someone initiated a go  Fundme page, which received more than $15 million in donations for the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund, others made t-shirts and stickers, and some even sold lemonade to raise donations. National Hockey League teams also held moments of silence, donated funds, and posted heartfelt condolences. Anderson said that she was “blown away and humbled” by the reactions of her fellow Canadians and strangers throughout the world, and was glad Wascana Flower Shoppe could be a part of the healing process.

“Flowers have a love language of their own, and they are a constant reminder to us all of the beauty of life,” Anderson said. “Flowers are a hug, a pat on the back, and a kiss on the cheek without even exchanging a spoken word. When there is nothing left, no words, no tears, no anything, there are still flowers.”

Mackenzie Nichols
Mackenzie Nichols is a freelance writer and experienced floral designer.
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