Fort Smith pulls together after tragic car accident

Fort Smith pulls together after tragic car accident
Jennifer Cheezie, left, and a group of volunteers sort the more than $1,000 in recycling raised to help the Lafferty family.Photo: Sandra Jaque.

The community of Fort Smith showed its true colours last week as thousands of dollars in donations piled in for the Lafferty family following a tragic vehicle accident on Sunday evening.

Brad Lafferty, a young man from Fort Smith, was seriously injured when the car he was driving lost control, hit the ditch and rolled numerous times, throwing him from the vehicle. Both he and his two passengers were transported to hospital, where Lafferty was sent by medevac to Edmonton.

Lafferty remains in critical condition at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he has undergone numerous surgeries to his head, neck and upper torso.

Within hours of the accident, family, friends and community members began cobbling together funds to give financial assistance to Brad’s parents, Lois and Steve Lafferty, while they are in Edmonton at his bedside.

Even with concurrent fundraising efforts for the Relay for Life, thousands were collected for the Lafferty family through online auctions, crowdfunding campaigns, bake sales and barbecues throughout town, as well as similar fundraisers in Hay River, Fort Resolution and even further north.

Ramanda Sanderson is one of Lafferty’s friends in Fort Smith who helped coordinate some of the fundraising efforts, including a bake sale and online auctions. She said those activities alone have raised around $2,000 for the Lafferty family.

“I’ve been friends with Brad going on 10 years, him and his family mean a lot to me and if I can’t be there for them personally I want to be able to do as much as I can for them here,” Sanderson said. “We all don’t want them to worry about anything while they’re in Edmonton by his side.”

Sanderson said the response has been amazing, but not unexpected.

“Being from such a small town, no one ever hesitates to help in any way,” she said. “I get calls daily for donations for 24-hour auctions and about 18 people responded to the bake sale for donations. When hard times hit, we are all in this together as a community.”

More than $1,000 was also raised by a bottle drive coordinated by Fort Smith resident Jennifer Cheezie, who was inundated with recyclables after an outpouring of support from people around the community last week, many of whom also helped her pick up and sort the cans and bottles.

“We all did this because Brad is a true loyal friend,” Cheezie said. “We could have not been able to do this if it was not for the community’s input. Love this town; when bad things happens here, people pull together like a family.”

Most wanting to help out have turned to an online fundraising campaign called the “Brad Lafferty come home fund,” which was started by his cousin, Christy Woledge. As of Monday, 77 people had raised over $4,500 in six days.

The accident occurred at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 7 on Highway 5 just half a kilometre south of the Pine Lake Road in Alberta.

It was the second serious vehicle accident to occur over the weekend.

A truck rolled on the morning of Saturday, June 5 on the Mackenzie Highway at 104th Ave. in Hay River.

The driver, who was the lone occupant of the truck, went off the road, crossing over the centre line and rolling into the ditch. The driver was seriously injured and transported by medevac to hospital in Edmonton for treatment.

According to RCMP, alcohol is believed to have been a factor in both collisions.

“These collisions have resulted in serious injuries for both the drivers and passengers,” said RCMP media liaison Cst. Elenore Sturko. “With alcohol believed to have been a significant contributing factor, these collisions were preventable. Please do not drink and drive. Consume alcohol responsibly, and encourage others to be responsible as well.”

*An earlier version of this story reported that one of Lafferty’s passengers was also sent by medevac to Edmonton. That has now been confirmed as incorrect. The Journal apologizes for this error.

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