Saskatoon

New award named for Humboldt Broncos crash victim to recognize dedication to blood donation

The annual Dayna Brons Honorary Award will recognize a member of Canada's hockey community who is dedicated to giving blood and stem cell products.

First winner of Dayna Brons Honorary Award will be announced on June 3

The first winner of the Dayna Brons Honorary Award will be announced on June 3. (Omayra Issa/CBC)

Hockey Gives Blood, an organization formed in the wake of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash to reduce blood shortages nationwide, is launching an award named after one of the victims of the crash.

The annual Dayna Brons Honorary Award will recognize a member of Canada's hockey community who is dedicated to giving blood and stem cell products.

Brons, the Humboldt Broncos' athletic therapist, was one of 16 people killed when a bus crashed into a semi trailer in rural Saskatchewan on April 6, 2018. Thirteen others were injured. A Calgary-based transport truck driver was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in January to 29 counts of dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm. 

Prior to her death, Brons donated blood for years.

"The last time she donated was on March 8, so about a month before the accident," Brons' mother, Carol Brons, told CBC News.

Remembering the victims of the Humboldt bus crash

4 years ago
Duration 7:04
Friends, family and former coaches share how they're remembering the 16 victims of last year's Humboldt bus crash

A lasting impact

A year after the Humboldt Broncos crash, people are still finding ways to remember those who died. Canadians began signing up for organ donations after learning that Logan Boulet was a donor.

The Dayna Brons Honorary Award is the latest of those initiatives.

Brons was known for her generosity and humility.

"She volunteered a lot. It's just the kind of kid and adult she was," Carol Brons said.

Stu Middleton, one of the founders of Hockey Gives Blood, connected with the Brons family in August 2018 at the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Golf, where he gave a speech about blood donations.

Carol Brons shared Dayna's story with him. 

"[Dayna's] story resonated with Stu. We've connected on and off throughout the past year," Brons added.

A few months later, the Dayna Brons Honorary Award was born and its trophy designed by Regina-based artist Khent Tobil.

"Stu brought forward to us that he wanted to do something and we've been very honoured to allow him to do it. It's humbling. It's hard to know how to react to all these things, but we're very grateful," Carol Brons explained.

"It helps to know that she has made a lasting impression on people. It's hard but it helps."

Scott Barney, head coach and general manager of the Humboldt Broncos, said he is also happy to see an award in Dayna Brons name.

"It's an honour," Barney said. "It's great to see them honour Dayna with such a prestigious award."

Barney and members of the Humboldt Broncos donated blood in October 2018.

(Left to right) Lyle Brons, Stu Middleton from Hockey Gives Blood and Carol Brons. (Omayra Issa/CBC)

At the wrong place at the wrong time

Middleton, who played junior hockey with the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the early 2000s, said the Humboldt Broncos tragedy triggered memories of his own personal loss 19 years ago.

"When I was 18 playing junior hockey, I found out that my dad had been killed in a car accident traveling to one of my games. He was hit by a semi-truck passing on the wrong side of the highway. He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Middleton.

He heard about the Humboldt Broncos tragedy while on a family vacation in Disneyland and felt compelled to act.

"I just knew something needed to be done."

Middleton teamed up with his best friend, Tanner Murray, to launch Hockey Gives Blood.

"Tanner is special in my life at a young age. When I ultimately returned back to the team 10 days after my dad was killed, coincidentally we took the same bus trip back. I'm driving past the accident scene for the first time on the bus and when we got to the arena, I just couldn't get off the bus. Just sitting there and crying essentially," he said.

"Tanner stayed with me. Just 18 years old, to know how to do that, was pretty special. I've never forgotten it," Middleton added.

Increase blood donations

Middleton said ultimately, Hockey Gives Blood wants to get every hockey team in Canada to get involved with blood donation, even at the junior level.

He said 40 hockey teams across to country have signed up so far.

Jennifer Gretzan-Melnichuk, associate director of donor relations (Prairies) at Canadian Blood Services, said the organization needs 10,000 units of blood in Saskatchewan over the summer months.

Canadian Blood Services said it needs 100, 000 new blood donors every year.

"Blood donors support the health of our communities," Gretzan-Melnichuk said.

The tributes set up in the Elgar Petersen arena in Humboldt for the memorial service on the April 6 anniversary of the team bus crash. (Liam Richards/Postmedia)

The ideal candidate

The ideal candidate for the new award has to be older than 17 years old and be in the hockey community. They have to display some or all the attributes Brons was known for, such as humility, dedication, sacrifice, work ethic and kindness.

The winner will be announced on June 3. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Omayra Issa

Journalist

Omayra Issa is a senior reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. She has reported in several Canadian cities, including Saskatoon and Ottawa. @OmayraIssa

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