Green Shirt Day is being held nationally on April 7, in memory of one of the Humboldt Broncos crash victims, and to raise awareness of organ donation.
On April 6, 2018, the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team’s bus collided with a semi-truck in Saskatchewan, killing 16 people and injuring 13 others.
Logan Boulet was 21 when the bus crashed. He was taken to a hospital in Saskatoon with a severe brain injury. The summer before, he had told his dad he wanted to be an organ donor. When he died on April 7, 2018, his organs were donated across Canada.
That led to what’s being termed the “Logan Boulet Effect” in which thousands of Canadians registered to donate organs.
Boulet’s parents, Bernadine and Toby Boulet spoke at an event promoting Green Shirt Day in Ottawa.
“Logan tried to be a friend to all. He was fiercely loyal and would defend family, friends and basically anyone he felt needed defending,” Toby Boulet, Logan’s father, told the crowd.
Boulet always put the team first, his dad said.
“That’s why on your shirts it has the Logan Boulet Effect on the bottom, the green ribbon in the middle and above that is Humboldt Strong,” he said. “It’s team first.”
It was Boulet’s fitness coach, Ric Suggit, who inspired him to become an organ donor.
Suggit died suddenly in June 2017. Boulet’s mother said it fell to her to tell Boulet the news about his coach.
“He cried. I went and hugged my boy and held him. I had no idea we would be holding Logan, less than a year later, the same way that Ric’s family was holding him that morning in Calgary,” Bernadine said.
Suggit’s family donated his organs. This inspired Boulet to want to do the same, Toby Boulet said.
“A few solitary actions have a ripple effect that has turned into a tsunami,” he said. “And has formed a wave. A wave that has inspired over 200,000 Canadians to say ‘Yes, I want to be [a] registered organ donor.'”
In April 2018, an estimated 100,000 people registered to be donors after being inspired by Boulet’s example, said Peggy John, associate director at the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation team at Canadian Blood Services. In May alone, another 50,000 people registered, John said.
“Those numbers were really unprecedented,” she said.
We don’t quite yet know how huge it’s going to be, but we’re excited by what we’ve seen so far.– Peggy John
“Green Shirt Day, as I think you’ve probably seen, has been gaining momentum across the country,” she said.
John said it’s an opportunity to continue building on the legacy Logan Boulet left when be became a donor last year. People are planning Green Shirt Flash Mobs and continued messaging about organ donation on days around April 7. Students and workplaces are wearing green shirts on Monday to get the word out.
“We don’t quite yet know how huge it’s going to be, but we’re excited by what we’ve seen so far.”
In Canada, we don’t like to talk about death, John said, but it’s important for people to both register for organ donations and also talk to their family about their decision. In the future they hope to see organ donation become a normal part of end-of-life care, she said.
The latest statistics show that 90 per cent of people support the concept of organ donation, but only 23 per cent have registered their decision, John said. Newer numbers are expected in the next few months.
“In Canada, we know that organ donation rates have been improving,” she said. “It’s just making sure that you know what your loved one’s wishes are and they know what your wishes are.”
Cheryl Olson is directly affected by the topic of organ donation. Olson has received two heart transplants, one in 1999 and one in 2008.
The first transplant was a blur, after she became very ill; the second one was a whirlwind, she said. The call came in at around one in the morning. It was the University of Alberta Hospital saying they had a heart that was a match for her.
“Your mind is going places,” she said. “To the donor family, you’re thinking about them, and what they’re going through as you’re getting prepared to undertake the surgery and hopefully add years to your life.”
Olson’s donor, Lyndsey, was 16 years old when she died in a car accident. Olson had the chance to meet Lyndsey’s family and now keeps a photograph of her in her home.
“It’s good, but difficult,” she said. “Because you’re on the happily-ever-after side of the story and they’re on the side where they’ve lost someone very, very dear to them.”
Olson said there’ve been many moments she would have missed without the donor heart.
“Both of my kids got their driver’s licences. Both of my kids graduated from high school. My daughter Lindsay moved down to the states. She fell in love and is getting married in August,” she said.
Olson was there for the proposal, went wedding dress shopping, but also enjoys the little moments like talking daily to her daughter and seeing her son on weekends.
“It’s just the day-to-day things really that are so very precious and that I’m so very thankful to be here for,” she said.
When she first heard Logan Boulet’s story, Olson started crying, she said.
“Because I know that some people were getting the miracle that they needed. But I also know that a young man lost his life.”
“We can’t dwell on it as recipients because I think we would just spiral into a depression. And really this was a gift for us to continue living and to live our lives with as much normalcy, as much joy, as we possibly can. And by doing that, we honour our donors,” she said.
Olson said she believes the Boulets may never heal from that loss, but she admires them for helping others by sharing their son’s story.
“It’s hard to even put into words how much you respect and honour and admire them for doing what they are doing,” she said.
“I would do anything, anything to change what happened on that Saskatchewan highway on April 6, 2018,” Bernadine Boulet said.
“All we needed was a few precious seconds. Unfortunately, we can’t go back. We can’t change the events of that day,” she said.
“However, as we know, we can change the outlook, the health and the lives for so many people waiting for an organ transplant.”
“Be inspired by Logan, be inspired by Ric, be inspired by so many other angels and living donors and thousands and thousands of Canadians,” Bernadine said. “Register, and most importantly, talk to your family. Have that conversation.”
This story originally appeared on CBC