Growing Great Places Together

HUGS for Humboldt becomes a reality

Author : Karen Stephenson, Scotts Canada

In April 2018 the Humboldt Broncos, a Canadian junior “A” ice hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan were involved in a terrible tragedy in which 16 people lost their lives. People across Canada and the World were moved by the loss experienced by one small town in Saskatchewan. Like many Canadians, Scotts Canada felt a strong desire to honour those who lost their lives, and so, it partnered with Communities in Bloom and Landscape Saskatchewan / Landscape Alberta to offer the City of Humboldt a memorial garden.  After years of planning and through a global pandemic the work of many volunteers and donors has brought this vision to reality.

The Humboldt Urban Garden Sanctuary (HUGS) was built to serve as a memorial to the sixteen people that lost their lives as well as to serve as an ongoing sanctuary for healing those that remained behind.  Situated at the Humboldt District Health Facility grounds the hope is that this garden will serve as a place to remember, reflect, and rejuvenate the spirit of the community. The entrance to the garden is highlighted by a raised circular area that is home to the memorial art piece featuring butterflies that represent the human spirit’s ability to heal, mature, and undergo a metamorphosis, allowing it to emerge and soar after cocooning itself. It represents the emergence from grief due to the horrible loss that was experienced by this community.

The garden contains a number of symbolic elements that were incorporated into the design by Landscape Designer, Christyn Palazzo. The ‘Sunset’ patio is highlighted by 16 shrubs and grasses on the west side of the patio to represent the 16 Humboldt Bronco hockey players and staff that lost their lives. These plantings evoke a sunset representing the continued presence, in the lives of loved ones, of those that perished and the bringing of peace through their memory. The planting beds flanking the sidewalks are designed to represent the shape of angel wings.

The ‘Sunrise’ patio located in the southeast corner is for the 13 survivors and mirrored with 13 plantings along the east side of the area.  The sunrise represents the healing journey that continues everyday.

Artist Murray Cook with his sculpture

The garden was officially opened on June 22, 2022, with a ceremony attended by sponsors of the garden, hospital staff, community members and representatives of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. Carol Bron, who lost her daughter, Dayna, in the crash and is the official spokesperson for the Broncos said, “This sanctuary is amazing. Being able to see the construction and get my hands dirty helped my healing process. And the friends I made with other volunteers brought happiness to me; happiness that I had been missing for awhile”. On behalf of the Broncos organization and its families, Ms. Bron thanked all the companies and individuals who donated to the project.

Although there are a few remaining elements of the garden that still need to be installed, the Humboldt Urban Garden Sanctuary, HUGS for short, now welcomes the community to visit in the hopes that they find peace, tranquility, and healing.