Exactly five years to the day after Brenda Nelson lost her 12-year-old son Coleton, she lost her grandson, Ryker Mcclurg.
“Their deaths shall not be in vain,” Nelson said, explaining how, for the past three years now, Coleton’s family has been fundraising year-round to support less privileged families in the Aldergrove and Abbotsford communities at Christmas in honour of Coleton.
She described her son as “an energetic, fun-loving North Otter Elementary student was part of the Aldergrove and Langley community with his hockey, BMX, and basketball.”
He was killed in a car accident on February 18, 2011.
Then on Feb. 18 of this year, their daughter Chrystie, and her husband Jake “ironically and tragically” lost their 19-month-old son, Ryker.
As a result of this most recent loss, the family is ramping up its fundraising efforts and hosting a hockey tournament in Aldergrove this weekend.
The event is the Aldergrove Minor Hockey’s annual Coleton Nelson Memorial Tournament running from Friday through Sunday, Nov. 11 to 13, at the Aldergrove Community Arena, with Coleton’s father and Ryker’s grandfather, Wayne, dropping the puck on the first game.
Donations of non-perishable food and gifts for children will be accepted at the arena throughout this weekend, at 2882 272nd St. The event organizers hope to “fill the net” during the tournament.
Nelson explained the donations will be going to what has been dubbed the Coleton Clause and Ryker’s Reindeer Christmas Charity.
“Last year, with the help of the community, we were able to give 15 families enough food and gifts to last them at least three months,” she said.
“We also played secret Santa for a 16th family,” which Nelson described as “incredibly rewarding” and “uplifting.”
Nelson is hoping to touch even more lives this Christmas.
“We don’t just give them a typical hamper,” she told the Langley Advance. They typically receive about $1,000 worth of gifts and enough food to last for close to three months.
Much of the donations are raised through a personal drive the family holds in June, around Coleton’s birthday, when she puts out a call to friends and family through Facebook asking them to donate. This year, they have raised close to $6,000 plus donations, so far.
As well, more people – like this weekend’s tournament organizers – are getting on board the effort and organizing events to boast the donations. So the amount of families they’re able to help each year continues to rise.
Brenda choses to work with the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau – given their stricter screening processes – to help several families in that community.
In past, she’s ask bureau organizers to find her a family that has a young boy 12 years of age, like Coleton was when he passed away. Then, she asks for a family with a boy the age Coleton would be this year, at Christmas. Now, given this year’s passing of Ryker, she’s also asking to sponsor a family with a toddler Ryker’s age.
She also hopes to help five or six Aldergrove families through her secret Santa initiative, as well.