A thank-you letter of love, with hope to move forward

“It’s been a struggle because we miss him every day. We’re trying to find our new normal but for any family, when they lose a son or brother, nothing is normal again.”

A day doesn’t go by where we don’t cry missing our son and our brother, Evan.

It’s been 20 weeks, but it feels like we have lived a lifetime since April 6, 2018, when 16 people — parents, children, siblings, friends, cousins — died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. That day, the world as we knew it changed forever. Sixteen people lost their lives in an unimaginable tragedy. Our son and brother was one of those wonderful people.

It’s been a struggle because we miss him every day. We’re trying to find our new normal but for any family, when they lose a son or brother, nothing is normal again.

For the first six or eight weeks, it was chaos. You’re right in the middle of a tornado. Time goes on, reality sets in. Summer hit and we keep waiting to hear his voice downstairs being mad at the Xbox, to come running upstairs for Kraft Dinner at 10:30 at night before bed — and it’s just us in the house. Summer’s been hard. It’s real now. And it sucks. It sucks bad. In the winters, Evan was always living with a billet or playing hockey so we saw him at the rink. In the summers, he’s living in the basement, he’s playing Xbox, he’s coming through the door with his buddies, asking what’s for supper. We still expect him to walk through the door — and he’s not.

We continue to hear from so many people about how he touched their lives. Four months later, it still leaves us humbled and struggling to find the words. The communities of Saskatoon and Humboldt, not to mention cities and towns near and far, reached out with open arms and pulled us in. The baseball and hockey worlds stood tall in front and behind us to shield us from the tornado that was enveloping our lives. Out of the deepest of darknesses, the community wrapped us in a cosmic bubble of love and support.

For so many, this tragedy tore through their hearts as if it was their own loss. They responded, simply, with love. There are so many people for us to thank, we know we may miss some of you; please know that’s because of heads and not our hearts. We don’t know where to begin. We’re going to try, though …

• The first responders

We have met a few of them that were at the scene. They didn’t sign up for what they saw that night. Most of them are volunteers, especially the firefighters. So many people run away from tragedy. They ran to it.

• Bonny and Craig Stevenson for speaking at Evan’s memorial service — and giving us hope

They know first-hand the same pain and grief after their son, Quinn, was killed by a drunk driver. We knew Bonny and Craig before through baseball. I actually spoke at a small memorial for Quinn at one of the provincial tournaments in the weeks after Quinn’s death. We’ve seen them be able to go on and see life after Quinn. It’s important for us, as we struggle not being able to see how we move forward without Evan. It gave us hope that we can move on and share Evan’s memory, just like Bonnie and Craig have shared Quinn’s memory and done as much as they can in his honour.

• Those who donated to a GoFundMe or community foundation, who sent blankets or quilts, who made jewelry or cards, who said a prayer or shared a moment of love, who left a hockey stick outside their door or lowered a flag, or simply shed a tear for the Broncos

• Murray Chamberlain and the RCMP

• UEX Corp., including CEO and president Roger Lemaitre, the board and UEX staff; Cameco Corp. and CEO Tim Gitzel; Mosaic Company, for the donation to Latrace Arena in Evan’s name

• Meridian Development and Dave Thomas; Saskatchewan Government Insurance and Nadine Hetherington; Jeff Krivoshen and Holiday Inn/Staybridge Suites; John Schactel and Elaine Presnell from Mourning Glory Funeral Services

So many people did so much for us at a time where we were reeling and struggling with having to cope with losing Evan.

We are so thankful for the opportunity to talk about Evan. He had a great life. It was way shorter than it should have been. He would have told a heck of a story. So many people have thanked us for putting a face to his number 17 and to his name as one of the 16 killed. He was such a great kid, I think it helps with our healing to talk about him and share his memory.

• Saskatoon Blue Jays and Saskatoon Baseball Council for honouring Evan with the Evan Thomas Memorial AAA bantam wood bat tournament; Saskatoon Minor Hockey for creating the Evan Thomas memorial sports person of the year award and scholarship, and the Evan Thomas Memorial pee wee AA tournament; and the Saskatoon Community Foundation and Roger Lemaitre for creating and hosting the Evan Thomas Memorial Scholarship.

• SaskTel Centre and Scott Ford for allowing us to hold Evan’s memorial there on April 16; and Saskatoon Minor Hockey, Kelly Boes, Rick Reimer and the SMHA board, Jonathan Huntington, Scott Scissons, Chad Bankowski, Clint Binsfeld, Sandra Panko, Audrey Gavlas and Brent Blazieko for all they did with the memorial service

Right off the bat, it was, ‘What do you need?’ So many people continue to tell us how amazing the day was, so we want to ensure we thank those that made this happen. To us, that was such an honour to be in that facility.

• The Saskatchewan Roughriders

• The Humboldt Broncos, president Kevin Garinger, the Broncos’ board and Chris Beaudry

As with a lot of the first responders, the Broncos board is all volunteers. None of them signed up for what they had to deal with. Kevin provided a strong, steady voice in a potential time of chaos. Chris has had a tough go in his life over the last few years. He has struggled with some demons personally and to have to work his way through this has been a major challenge for him. He provided us with a reminder of how this tragedy affected other people.

• Country Thunder, Kelly Chase and Troy Vollhoffer for the April 27 fundraising concert

The evening was so well timed. So many people have said they were never at an event like that before where they went from crying to laughing to singing to dancing in that short of time. It was a huge emotional release and a big example of just how many people do really care.

• The hockey world, from six year olds in Saskatoon to the sport’s greatest stars past and present

In no particular order because we’re immensely grateful to all: the Saskatoon Blazers; the Moose Jaw Generals and Ray Wareham for retiring Evan’s No. 9; Chantz Petruic and Ahmed Ally, two of Evan’s teammates in Moose Jaw who helped organize a hockey game in Evan’s honour; the Moose Jaw Warriors, including Alan Millar and Tim Hunter; the Edmonton Oil Kings, including Randy Hansch and Jamie Novakoski; Matt Cockell and the Kootenay Ice, the WHL team that drafted Evan; the Saskatoon Blades, Colin Priestner and Steve Hildebrand; the Saskatoon junior Blades families; the National Hockey League Players Association; Hockey Canada, including president and CEO Tom Renney; and Ron MacLean of Hockey Night in Canada for his wonderful tribute to Evan.

The hockey world was hit hard by this. Real hard. We got a package of flowers from pretty much every NHL team and WHL team. Mike Babcock phoned from the Toronto Maple Leafs just as they were getting ready to play Game 2 against Boston. It was 30 minutes before game time. The hockey world understood what happened. It wouldn’t have mattered if you were in B.C. or Ontario or the Maritimes. You saw grown men crying, weeping in the knowledge that it could have been them or, worse, their sons or daughters on any bus. It was a classic example of how you may compete on the ice, but it really is just a game in the end. Real life is what matters.

• Dr. Dean Potapinski, Dr. Roger Kiva and Confederation Chiropractic for holding an Evan Thomas Day to honour Evan with donations going towards Jordyn’s Education Fund. And to TD Bank, for helping set up the Jordyn Thomas Education Fund in memory of her brother

So many people came to us after that accident and asked how they could help us personally. They said they already gave to the GoFundMe page but still wanted to do something for our family. We thought that out of all the people Evan would have wanted to make sure was taken care of out of this tragedy, the No. 1 person would have been Jordyn.

• Marla Possberg, a photographer from Humboldt who has taken so many photos of Evan and the team, and Reflections by Richard, for his photos of Evan as a member of the Broncos

• Silverspring elementary school and Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon, and Vanier Collegiate in Moose Jaw

• Tracy Lambert; Carman Davies and Dinalle Elliot; Cal and Jackie Hobbs; Dr. Kyle and Meghan Roth, Dr. Kurt Stukel and the staff at Attridge Chiropractic Clinic; Rick and Sue Fraser and Team 23 Chuckwagons

To this day, people are trying to find ways to make sure we’re OK.

• Tantrix Body Art and tattoo artist Trenton Giles

Trenton has done tattoos for the three of us and also Evan’s grandma, much of it at no charge because he was so personally affected by the crash. He’s been fantastic.

• The Warford family — Dudley, Laurie, Taryn, Colten and Shelby — for opening their arms and hearts as Evan’s billet family in Humboldt

They made him feel like that was his home. One of the first times he came home to see us, he said they put him right upstairs, right off the kitchen table, in the front room. He was nervous about that but they included him in everything they did — playing cards, Scrabble or spoons. Sometimes he’d play XBox with Colten downstairs. Breezy the family cat laid on Evans suitcase for weeks after the accident, constantly scratching at Evan’s door looking for him. They treated our son and brother like their own son and brother. As parents, you need that trust. They showed him all of that.

• And, of course, the 28 other Humboldt Broncos families whose lives are forever changed by this tragedy


Love forever,

Scott, Laurie and Jordyn Thomas