It’s startling enough to see images of the fires that have raged through Alberta for the past month, roaring through towns and displacing thousands of Canadians from their homes.
Hearing a first-hand account of just what that devastation has wrought brings the nightmare to a whole different level — and a personal one for members of the Minnesota Wild.
Danielle Spurgeon (pictured), wife of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, said her parents were forced from their home in Edmonton as a result of a fire that raged during an extraordinarily dry spring in the province.
Their loss — and the losses of those around them in Fort McMurray — provided the impetus for a fundraiser Thursday to help those affected by the fires.
Jared Spurgeon and five Wild teammates — Erik Haula, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser and Jason Zucker — signed autographs at BMO Harris Bank in Edina, raising money for the Red Cross to support victims of the fires.
Danielle Spurgeon, the chief organizer of the event, was heartened by both the turnout and the willingness of her husband’s teammates to help out. Her parents, Colette and Norm LaRose, moved in temporarily with Danielle and Jared — a transition that was smooth but still difficult.
“When you walk inside (the house) and see all the destruction, that’s the really hard part,” she said. “Seeing that is what sparked this. I thought if my family had a lot of immediate help and it’s still really hard, it made me think of all the people who maybe didn’t have that help.”
Said Jared Spurgeon: “We’re fortunate enough that we can do something about it.”
The event was a hit with Wild fans and collectors, who were able to get six autographs — including a coveted one from Parise — for a $50 donation. The first 300 people in line were guaranteed autographs, meaning the event alone was slated to net a $15,000 donation.
Alex Rand (pictured, no relation to the author) was the first person to go through the line when doors opened shortly after 3 p.m., and he earned it.
Rand, a memorabilia collector, drove an hour from Zimmerman and arrived to stake out his spot at 9 a.m. — six hours before the event began — after he heard that other collectors were planning to arrive three or four hours early.
“I’m so happy they want to support this,” Danielle Spurgeon said.
Rand said he considered the $50 price a “great deal” and bought a new jersey specifically to have it signed at the event.
Others moved through the line and chatted with players. Parise was in his element making small talk with a fan in a North Dakota jersey (his former school) and a family with twins (he, too, is a father of twins).
“It seems like (the fires) are affecting a lot of communities,” Parise said, noting the hockey world has been hit hard. “It’s good to help out as much as we can.”