$12M GoFundMe for Humboldt Broncos to close Wednesday

The Humboldt Broncos organization will soon be closing a GoFundMe that raised $12 million to support players and families affected by a crash that left 16 people dead and 13 injured.

'We are working around the clock with our advisers to get the funds to our families as quickly as possible'

Flowers lie at centre ice at the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, on April 8, 2018, during a vigil for those who died. GoFundMe said it will take several months to distribute the money raised for the victims of a fatal bus crash that has claimed the lives of 16 people. (Canadian Press)

The Humboldt Broncos organization will soon be closing a GoFundMe that raised $12 million to support players and families affected by a crash that left 16 people dead and 13 injured.

The outpouring of support began 10 days ago after the team bus collided with a semi on the way to Nipawin, Sask., on April 6.

Kevin Garinger, president of the Humboldt Broncos, made a statement Monday evening about how the team plans to secure and manage the funds that have been raised.

Garinger said the Humboldt Broncos board of directors, with legal counsel from MLT Aikins, and advice from GoFundMe executives, has decided to close the campaign and take it offline at 11:59 p.m. MDT on Wednesday, April 18. 

The donated funds will be transferred to a newly created non-profit known as the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc.

An advisory committee is being established to make a recommendation for the allocation of funds.

'Working to support our Bronco families'

He said the organization's board of directors has immense love and gratitude for all those who have donated time and money to Humboldt Broncos fundraisers.

"If there is any light shining through this dark time, it has come in the form of love for one another," he said. "Our families and our entire organization has been blessed to feel this love from people from around the globe.

Humboldt Broncos president Kevin Garinger speaks at a news conference in Humboldt on April 7, 2018. He will announce plans for fund allocations on Monday. (CBC)

"Our priority currently remains focused, as it has since day one, on working to support our Bronco families, especially now as they are celebrating the lives of their loved ones and supporting our players who are struggling to heal."

Garinger also thanked fund creator, Sylvie Kellington. Kellington, who is from the small community, started the fundraiser in hopes of covering parking costs for the families who were at the hospital following the crash.

The fund went on to bring in more money than any GoFundMe campaign in Canadian history.
A family places a cross made from hockey sticks a makeshift memorial at the intersection of the fatal bus crash. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Fundraisers and donations outside of the GoFundMe will go to the Humboldt Strong Community Foundation, created with legal counsel from Robertson Stromberg LLP. Garinger said its mission will be to support Humboldt Broncos players, employees, families and volunteers as well as first responders, emergency personnel, teams, athletes, organizations and communities affected by the crash and its aftermath. 

Only fundraisers and initiatives directed to the foundation will be endorsed, sanctioned by or held in conjunction with the Humboldt Broncos organization. Garinger said the team's management will not be able verify any other fundraising events.

In an update posted on the GoFundMe page on Friday night, the Humboldt Broncos announced the team was getting assistance from western Canada law firm MLT Aikins LLP law firm which is supporting the organization pro bono.
Caitlin Hergott, left, and Sylvie Kellington started a GoFundMe campaign which raised more than $12 million 10 days after it first started. (Jennifer Barr/CBC)

"Know that we are working around the clock with our advisers to get the funds to our families as quickly as possible," the post said.

"We appreciate your patience as this process takes time and thoughtful consideration."

As of the latest update, 10 people from the Humboldt Broncos crash remain in hospital, with two in critical condition, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Little is known about their specific injuries, except that 18-year-old Ryan Straschnitzki is paralyzed from the chest down.

If some suffer severe injuries, including paralysis and brain injuries, financial support could be required to pay for 24-hour care.

If someone needs to use a wheelchair, home modifications could be a large expense.
Humboldt Broncos defenceman Ryan Straschnitzki, before and after the crash. He is paralyzed from the chest down. (Tom Straschnitzki via Twitter)

The cost of psychological and emotional recovery for team members and their families could also come out of the fund.

Insurance coverage also on the table

Because the deaths and injuries resulted from a road accident in Saskatchewan, some of the costs will be covered through SGI, the province's public insurance company.

SGI president Andrew Cartmell said benefits available for people who are injured range from travel and accommodation costs for families visiting their loved ones in hospital to long-term rehabilitation and keeping their standard of living consistent.

No-fault insurance means that funds aren't tied to the cause of the crash and can be distributed before the investigation is complete.

Saskatchewan insurance also covers funeral costs up to about $10,000, plus additional death benefits, including grief counselling.

​Hockey Canada's insurance program also covers the Humboldt Broncos players, coaches and staff, spokesperson Lisa Dornan told CBC News in an email.

Dornan said crisis management staff from both Hockey Canada and insurance provider AIG were on-site in Humboldt to help support the families by making funeral arrangements and organizing travel.

Both SGI and Hockey Canada said that money received by survivors and family members from fundraising campaigns would not affect their insurance benefits.

With files from CBC Radio's Calgary Eyeopener, Nicole Ireland