Along the dusty roads of Withrow and Eckville there are hundreds of farm fields – these fields have been passed from family to family, leaving lasting legacies and multi-generational families intertwined within one another’s hearts.
These twines and ties are what keep small towns thriving when a moment as shattering as the loss of three daughters, sisters, nieces, neighbours, classmates, and friends is experienced. It is these ties that hold us together. It is the compassion of the community, the strength of multi-generational families and the unfaltering support for one another that help us through tough times.
The communities of Eckville and Withrow are places of love, support, hope, kindness and compassion. Over the past week they have been nothing short of incredible as they have bound together in solitude and strength to show their support for Roger, Bonita and Caleb Bott as they journey through the vast unknown that is the loss of Catie, Jana and Dara.
In the hours following the accident, members of the community were present at the Bott farm, including Pastor Brian Allan of the Withrow Gospel Mission lending the word of God to the Bott Family who assured the girls now rest in heaven. The following day friends, family and neighbours congregated on the fields of the Bott family farm.
Eight combines and ten trucks combed the canola, sweeping 140 acres in two hours to finish the harvest. At their helm was Joey Gustavson who led the way bycoordinating machinery and those willing to help.
“Everybody just stopped what they were doing put their own harvest on hold and did what needed to be done without questioning it,” explained Gustavson who’s own farm is near the Bott’s. “The farming community came together and every one wanted to let Roger and Bonita know how much we cared.”
Jim and Lori Smith were also lent a helping hand at the harvest with Jim adding, “In small communities that’s just the way it goes, everyone helps one another when it’s needed and at a time like this it is needed. Roger would have done the same thing for anyone else and that’s just the farmer mentality – it’s just the right thing to do.”
In the following days, news of the accident went international with farming communities from across the world as far as Australia catching wind. A trust was opened at the Eckville Credit Union with numerous GoFundMe pages being created online. Mitch Krecsy, branch manager at the Eckville Credit Union explained it isn’t unusual for a family member to request a trust to be set up and usually requires little work on the bank’s part. This trust would be different from any Krecsy and his team had experienced before.
“I don’t think anyone expected this trust to turn into a nationwide fundraising effort as it did, but it has been truly awe inspiring,” said Krecsy. “We have received calls and emails from coast to coast – the sheer volume was unbelievable. It’s not unusual for the community of Eckville and Withrow to come together, but the support from across the world that this trust and the GoFundMe pages have received is phenomenal.”
Currently the GoFundMe ‘Bott Family Trust’ created by Tami and Dave Brand sits at over $115,000, with the Credit Union’s trust at a significant but undisclosed amount. The Credit Union’s trust for the family grew by $23,469 on Saturday afternoon as over 350 bikers and custom hot rods from across Alberta gathered for a memorial ride in honour of the Bott family.
“I was sitting watching the news with my wife when I heard – it just broke me down – I was heart broken. I knew I had to do something,” explained Derek Beeston, organizer of the ride. “I contacted a friend who had done memorial rides before and from there we had riders from across Alberta join and donations coming in from all across Canada.”
The ride began in Red Deer, travelled to Rocky Mountain House, and carried on to Withrow where they rode past Roger and Bonita’s farm before stopping at the Eckville Credit Union where they presented their fundraising efforts.
Pam Koenig, who stood beside Roger and Bonita as the bikes rode past their house said tears flowed freely.
“It was so incredible to see the whole line, these people know what community means,” Koenig added.
The following Sunday over 500 people gathered at the Withrow Gospel Mission, where prayers were said for the girls and over 400 balloons were released to the heavens to the sound of ‘Amazing Grace’.
This Friday the community will gather at the Crossroads Church in Red Deer at 1:00 p.m. for a service to honour and remember the lives of Catie, Jana and Dara.