After 16 members of the Humbolt Broncos hockey team died as the result of a tragic bus crash accident in northeastern Saskatchewan April 6, the news resonated with people across the country and the world.
That’s why stand-up comedian and motivational speaker Joe Pillitteri, owner of Lakeview Vineyard Equipment in Niagara-on-the-Lake, will be holding a golf ball hunt to raise money for the families of those affected by the tragedy.
Pillitteri got the idea after his recent purchase of Unsion Golf System’s driving range, where he plans to build a home and plant a grape farm.
He said the former owner told him most of the golf balls had been cleaned up, though as winter went on, golf balls began surfacing from the ground.
“As soon as the frost lifted, they started physically popping up to the point where I thought there might be a couple hundred here, and then I’m like there’s a couple of thousand here now,” Pillitteri said.
Once Pillitteri told the story to a few people, the word got out and people started asking if they could buy used golf balls off him.
Pillitteri then took to social media with the Broncos in mind.
“I was like, hold on a second, let’s do something here,” he said.
“Maybe there’s something we could do that’s helpful to the people that want to help, and helpful to the people that need help.”
Pillitteri has invited the community over to the former Unison driving range at 120 Lakeshore Rd. for a golf ball hunt this Saturday, April 14, from noon to 1 p.m.
“We’ll keep everyone going for an hour and then blow a horn to call it off,” he said.
He thinks a crowd will be able to get most of the golf balls off the property in an hour.
Pillitteri is asking for a minimum donation of $10 donation from every participant, which will go to the Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe page.
So far the page has raised more than $7 million.
“We’re going to send every bit of it there from the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, not just from the sporting community, but from our town to theirs,” he said.
Pillitteri’s social media post on Instagram and Facebook has since been shared 100 times.
“I was kind of thinking this would be a way to raise a few hundred dollars and I am guessing it is going to be north of that now,” he said.
Pillitteri has coached hockey in some capacity since his son started playing more than seven years ago.
“The feeling of a team, you know, in hockey and what that means to kids, boys and girls all over Canada is one thing, but, you know, when I looked at picture of those boys, to me it was a lot more than just hockey,” he said.
“They were loving the journey, they were loving the process, they were loving the comradery, the brotherhood.”
Pillitteri said seeing that is really upsetting.
“It’s one thing to be upset about something, but, you know, these families deserve everything they can get,” he said.
“If this fund helps them in any way do that, I think it’s worth it.”
The hunt will be from noon until 1 p.m. April 14 and will include coffee and refreshments.
This story was updated after confirming a 16th crash victim died in hospital April 11.
WHAT: Golf ball hunt for Humboldt Broncos
WHERE: Former Unison driving range at 120 Lakeshore Rd.
WHEN: Saturday April 14, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.