A charity drive in support of a family that lost seven children in a Halifax house fire a month ago attracted hundreds of people to the BMO Centre in Bedford, N.S., on Saturday.
The drive was organized by Jillian Saulnier, a Halifax Olympian who is a member of Canada’s national women’s hockey team as well as the Montreal Canadiennes team of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Barho family, a mother and father whose seven children died in a house fire in Halifax on Feb. 19.
The father was severely burned in the house fire and has undergone multiple rounds of skin grafts.
Saulnier, 27, said she knew she wanted to do something to help the family.
“I’m from Nova Scotia,” she said. “My heart is here, and, you know, we are all family in this province. And when I heard this tragedy I just I felt so much for this family,” she said.
The fundraiser is going ahead with the family’s blessing.
The event kicked off with a silent auction, with all proceeds going to the Barho family through the Hants East Assisting Refugees Team Society.
Saulnier said the amount of support organizers have received for the auction has been “absolutely amazing.”
“I’m not surprised. You know, the hockey community and this province is amazing and this country is amazing. People rally together in times of need and love and that’s just what we’re seeing.”
Hockey fan and jersey collector Robert Hodgins travelled from Toronto just to attend the auction. He paid $2,000 to snag an autographed Saulnier jersey.
“When you see something like a Jill Saulnier game-worn Montreal Les Canadiennes jersey, I definitely had to come out,” he said.
“But I also support the cause. When you find out that people that are new to Canada escaping war and then they die in a house fire, I thought the very least we could do as Canadians is support that type of cause.”
An online auction — with items like signed jerseys, an all-inclusive flight package to and from the Clarkson Cup, Montreal Canadiens tickets, Toronto Blue Jay tickets — has been ongoing for more than a week.
Saulnier said she is aiming to raise $50,000 for the family. She said she would announce the final total in April, after the online auction ends.
In addition to the auction, there was also a public skate, a moment of silence for the children and charity hockey game featuring Saulnier, former university players and firefighters.
In a speech before the game, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said some of the firefighters taking part in the game had responded to the Barho house fire.