Mother of Manitoba tornado victim touched by community support during 'horrific, tragic time'
Friends of Melita teens killed in Aug. 7 tornado organize fundraiser, car cruise
One week after the tragic death of two teens in a tornado, their small southwestern Manitoba community is rallying around their families — and the mother of one of them is expressing her gratitude.
Friends of Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury, both 18, held a physically distanced drive-thru barbecue and car parade in Melita, Man., on Wednesday evening, as a fundraiser to help the teens' families with costs.
"We all know how much Carter loved his toys and had them in the box of his truck, so feel free to load up any toy into the box of your truck!" friend Denise Renwick wrote in a Facebook post, encouraging others to cruise the streets of Melita with ATVs, golf carts, and "all types of vehicles" in honour of the couple.
Barnesky and Tilbury died after their pickup truck was swept up by a twister on the evening of Aug. 7 near Virden, about 270 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
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Photos and videos of Wednesday's fundraiser show a long lineup of vehicles, snaking throughout the streets of Melita in the teens' memory.
The town's population is approximately 1,000, and many have family connections to one of the teens.
In a social media post and messages to CBC News, Shayna Barnesky's mother, Buffy Barnesky, thanked everyone who organized and participated in the event.
"Thank you doesn't even come close to being enough to express how appreciative we are for all the love and support we are receiving during this horrific, tragic time," she wrote.
Community support 'truly unbelievable'
"There are not enough words to tell each and everyone that helped make this happen, each and everyone that came out, and each and everyone that sent messages or thoughts, even though they couldn't make it," Barnesky wrote, saying the family has been "overwhelmed by the community support from far and wide."
In another post, Barnesky acknowledged visits, messages, phone calls, flowers and food through "this absolute unbelievable, unfair, gut wrenching, horrific, devastating time."
She described Shayna as "the most perfect, beautiful, smart, caring, sassy, and full of attitude young lady."
The teen was always there for her friends and family when they needed someone to talk to, her mother said.
"Shayna taught me so much in my life. She taught me how to be a mother, she taught me how to prioritize what was really important (my family) in my life. She taught me to be strong during the hardest times, she taught me to have a voice if necessary," Barnesky wrote.
Shayna battled with mental health and sometimes struggled to get up and go to work or school, her mother wrote. She pushed hard to graduate from high school.
'He was her rock'
Tilbury, though, could make Shayna's eyes light up on the toughest day, Barnesky said.
"He was her rock, and knew exactly how to help her on those days, and never once complained that she didn't want to go anywhere or do anything, he was just happy to be by her side," Barnesky wrote, describing him as a kind and caring young man.
"Carter was one of our family. He was at our house every day, whether it be for 20 minutes, or an extended day/night. We loved having him here. I'm not gonna lie, I still look by the door to see if his shoes are there in case we didn't see him come in."
Tilbury's obituary says he was predeceased by his mother, Norma Tilbury, in 2019.
Barnesky said Shayna was trying to decide what to do in the future. She was considering studying bookkeeping at Assiniboine Community College, her mother wrote, adding, "she had her whole life ahead of her to do amazing things."
Private family services are being planned for both teens.
Sunrise Credit Union is accepting donations for memorial funds. In lieu of flowers, Barnesky's family is requesting donations to Prairie Mountain Health, mental health services or to Strays That Can't Pay, a Virden-area animal rescue.
Tilbury's family has requested donations be made to the Terry Fox Foundation.