If any community in Canada knows what Fernie B.C. is going through with the loss of its arena following an ammonia leak that killed three men on October 17; it’s the Town of Wilkie.
Almost two years prior to the Fernie tragedy, Wilkie itself lost its arena on Oct. 9,2015 due to an electrical fire that caused extensive damage to the SaskCan Centre and presented a hardship, not only for the communities sports teams such as the Wilkie Outlaws, but for the entire town as a whole.
Last year, Wilkie secured several grants and received many donations to help renovate their facility, including $25,000 as a top-10 finalist for Kraft Hockeyville (KHV) and had considered trying their luck again to win the grand prize of $150,000 and a NHL pre-season game this year. However, when committee members Helen Urlacher and Kathy Heilman read the submission put forth by Fernie, they knew they had to help.
“When Kathy (Heilman) texted me and told me to read the Fernie story on Kraft Hockeyville; I was really moved,” said Urlacher. “So we decided that we will throw our support behind Fernie and try for KHV in 2019.”
Urlacher added that she has been in touch with the City of Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano on several occasions, offering assistance with what worked for their organizing committee which including setting up a Facebook page for Fernie’s bid.
“The Facebook page was huge for us,” Urlacher added. “It reached people not only in our own community, but from other areas of the province as well.”
Urlacher had planned on going to Fernie this week to help with the city’s KHV delegation drum up support. However inclement weather in the area forced her to cancel her plans. Instead she is sending Kraft Hockeyville signs donated by the Wilkie Delta Co-op to Fernie and will continue to assist the community via social media and telephone.
“We've been there. We know what it’s like to have our sports teams play out of other arenas,” said Urlacher. “There was no curling, skating nothing for an entire winter and it had a huge impact on our community.”
The mayor of Fernie said when she learned of Wilkie’s backing of their KHV bid she was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I had tears in my eyes,” said Mary Giuliano. “To think a community like Wilkie would be so considerate to do this for our city is fantastic.”
Giuliano said that she immediately reached out to Wilkie and thanked them for their support.
“We posted the Wilkie support on Facebook and our entire city now knows the generosity of Wilkie, Saskatchewan,” added Giuliano. “We cannot thank Helen, Kathy, and the citizens of Saskatchewan enough for the outpouring of support.”
Fernie employees Wayne Hornquist and Lloyd Smith died along with Alberta resident and refrigeration company employee Jason Podloski in October while attending to an ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena, which led to a seven-day state of emergency being declared with the evacuation off over 50 homes near the arena.
To add your support for Fernie B.C. for Kraft Hockeyville 2018, follow this link and submit a nomination before Feb. 11.
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