A family in Saskatchewan who moved to the province last year searching for new opportunities is facing a time of uncertainty. A recent diagnosis revealed that Dave Lai has leukemia, forcing him, and his wife Joy Zhao along with their two kids to quickly pack up their lives and move from Eston to Saskatoon for treatment over the coming months.
That’s when Kelly Knight, owner of local business Fresh in the Town of Eston, jumped into action and came up with the idea of an online auction on Facebook. Knight had learned of the situation due to her daughter’s friend not being at school.
Knight knew the cost of moving would not be cheap, and couldn’t imagine the strain something of this magnitude would have on a family new to the country.
“They’re new to Canada. They had only been here for 10 months. They have no family, no connections really other than the people that they knew in town and I just thought I could do something for them, so within finding out that he was sick, 24 hours later the auction was running.”
The auction ran from November 25th to December 5th and had items donated by members of the community and raised $21,374.00 dollars alone, on top of the numerous cash donations from residents.
“There were so many people that just wanted to help out that understood what the family was going through, and that sympathized with them just for not having any real family or connection because that doesn't happen a lot in Saskatchewan, especially in a small town. You sort of know everybody.”
Eston’s own Garrett Turner ran a hockey school which was another way money was able to be raised. The hockey school took place back on December 28th and 29th and taught fundamentals and skills to the youth that signed up. Turner was able to raise $900 dollars to later be donated.
Knight touched on how members of the community came together regardless of their connection to the family.
“It's people that know the family, it's also people that have no connection to them at all, which Garrett was one of those people. He's excellent at coaching and running camps, and he offered to contribute something he excelled at, regardless of not knowing the family at all.”
Turner, who coaches Knight’s daughters hockey team spoke about how he felt he could assist in his own way with the fundraiser.
“I didn't really know what else to donate. I wanted to be part of it for sure, but hockey was kind of the only thing that I knew how to do and I was happy to donate my time.”
The two-day hockey school focused on power skating, puck skills, and stickhandling.
Knight hasn’t met with the Lai/Zhao family in person yet since they moved to Saskatoon, but is in constant communication with them through phone calls and text messages. They had planned to meet during the holidays, but decided to wait until it is once again safe to do so.