When tragedy strikes, the first instinct for many people is ‘how can I help?’.
That includes Manitoba official Bryden Hutlet, who stepped up in a big way following the tragic spinal injury recently suffered by Portage Terriers defenceman Braden Pettinger.
The Brandon-based referee had modest goals when he established a GoFundMe page to help out Pettinger and his family. The online site, which helps collect donations galvanized support, has raised more than $140,000 in just 14 days.
“I had no idea it would be as successful as this,” said Hutlet. “I set it up as a place where officials could put some money aside for Braden. But the support it’s been getting, not only from the hockey community, but from family and friends, is amazing.”
Hutlet said he doesn’t know the Pettinger family, and only knew Braden through officiating him on the ice. As an official, Hutlet said he’s always concerned for the on-ice safety of players, and said that was another motivating factor for him to start up this campaign.
“I really wanted to show that we actually care about the players,” he said. “We’re strictly there to keep the game safe and fun for the players, and we do care about their safety.”
Initially, Hutlet set a very modest goal for the fund-raising page. He quickly had to increase the amount as the support kept flowing in.
“When I first set it up I put it at $700, figuring (referees) would donate a game fee, that sort of thing,” said Hutlet. “And then the next day I woke up and it was almost at $1,000, so I decided to increase it to $3,000.
“And then it caught on with Twitter and Facebook, and it went viral, to say the least,” he added.
After setting up the GoFundMe page and the beneficiaries, Hutlet has little to do in managing the page.
“I’ve spoken to the family a couple of times, and told them it’s all set up for them to take it,” said Hutlet. “I don’t have anything to do with the money – it’s all through the website.
“And I’ll just let it go as far as it’s going to go – I won’t raise the limit any more,” he added, saying he was thinking of ending the campaign around Dec. 20
Hutlet said in all his years of playing and officiating hockey, he’s never seen a major injury like the one Pettinger suffered.
“You do see incidents on the ice, but I’ve never seen anything happen like this,” he said. “This is something that’s life changing for Braden, that’s for sure.”
From its modest beginning, this initiative has turned into a substantial amount which will really help the Pettinger family through some difficult times ahead. Hutlet said he didn’t start this for accolades or recognition, but those have started to come his way nonetheless.
“There’s been a lot of good feedback from the coaches around the league,” he said. “During the pregame handshake, they’ve told me they appreciate what I’ve done. And I told them it’s not what I’ve done; it’s what the hockey community has done for Pettinger.”
If you still want to make a donation, simply search “Pettinger GoFundMe” and follow the link.