SUMMERSIDE – As the Summerside Western Capitals’ celebrated their first goal against the Bridgewater Lumberjacks on Sunday, Bruce and Edna Gallant were choked with emotion.
© Michael Nesbitt/Journal Pioneer
The Summerside Western Capitals Teddy Bear Toss, in support of the sixth annual Chad Gallant Teddy Bear Drive, provided enough donations of plush toys to fill the team’s promotional van after Sunday’s game against the Bridgewater Lumberjacks. Bruce and Edna Gallant, along with Chad’s stepdaughter Jasmyn, were at the game and thank everyone for the overwhelming response.
The couple’s tears were brought forth by the mass of plush toys and teddy bears launched by fans onto the ice surface, symbols that help keep alive the memory of their son.
For the Gallants, their son’s life and passing will be forever bound to the Capitals. The Teddy Bear Toss is one more link in that connection.
Chad Gallant and his common-law partner, Ashley Coughlin, were in collision with an impaired driver while en route to a Caps’ game in 2006. Coughlin survived. Chad did not.
It was unusual for the young couple to be without Coughlin’s daughter, Jasmyn. That day they decided that the little girl, at the time only 13-months-old, would stay with Chad’s parents.
The Gallants will be forever grateful for the decision that spared the child, who accompanied them to Sunday’s game and who continues to be part of their lives.
The O’Leary couple initiated the Chad Gallant Teddy Bear Memorial Drive in 2007 in an effort to provide comfort to children who find themselves in scary or stressful situations, with the stuffed toys initially distributed through the RCMP when appropriate.
The initiative has collected more than 1,000 of the comfort toys, with their distribution expanded to include police and Island EMS emergency responders.
For the Gallants, the collection and distribution of the stuffed toys keeps alive the memory of their son and his love of children while helping others.
“We’ve been told, through the police departments and EMS, that the teddy bears are a great comfort to children,” said Edna, who added that distribution has extended to schools when information sessions are presented on drugs and alcohol abuse.
With their effectiveness evident and distribution expanding, the Gallants have found it difficult to keep up with the demand, especially as the year winds to a close.
Fortunately, more organizations, like the Capitals, have joined the effort.
“Scotiabank came on board last year and this year several of the branches over the Island have joined the collection effort,” said Edna. “It’s really been a tremendous help to us.”
Fire trucks across the Western P.E.I. will begin carrying some of the teddy bears as they are often first responders to emergencies.
That also places more demand on the supply, which is where Credit Union Place and the Summerside Western Capitals are scoring big time.
“With the Credit Union Place coming on board with the Caps, it’s just awesome,” said Edna with obvious gratitude.
The response from the spectators upon the first Caps’ goal made it obvious that the fans were behind the initiative. Some brought their own donation while others purchased stuffed toys as they entered the arena.
In all, they loaded the cargo area of the Capitals’ promotion van, a welcome boost to a diminishing, year-end supply.
The Gallants start in October every year collecting donations and deliver to the different distributor organizations during the Christmas season.
This year, Scotiabank collected donations during parades in Kensington and Summerside.
The family makes individual memorial tags with Chad’s picture and recognition of the ongoing effort of the Teddy Bear Drive for each donation.
Even if the program expands beyond Prince County, the Gallants intend to continue to be involved in whatever way they can.
They say they can never adequately thank the many people who have helped the initiative grow and, in turn, honour the memory of their son.