Tag Archives: ‘She

‘She was so amazing’: Olympic luger fondly remembers Snowbirds crash victim Capt. Jenn Casey

Canadian Olympic luger Tristan Walker will never forget the time he got to share the sky with Captain Jenn Casey.

“It will forever be one the best days of my life. I have Jenn to thank for that,” he said.

In April 2019, Walker and teammate Justin Snith were invited to the Canadian Air Forces Base Comox in British Columbia to take flight with the Snowbirds.

The two compete in men’s doubles and raced the anchor leg for Canada, leading the team to a relay silver medal at the 2018 Olympics.

Walker didn’t know it at the time, but through a series of back and forth messages over Instagram last winter, he’d learn he was messaging with Casey for months in an attempt to line up the flight.

“She was my first point of contact with the Snowbirds,” Walker told CBC Sports.

“She immediately came back with positivity. Nothing but positivity with Jenn. That’s what it was like the entire time I knew her.”

On that April day a little more than a year ago, Walker was greeted in Comox by the bright smile of Casey. She stayed by his side the entire day, helping him gear up in the distinctive red and white of the Snowbirds and go through a safety course.

Not long after that, Walker was strapped in for a flight with Canada’s air demonstration squadron – Walker was piloted by Captain Taylor Evans of Canmore, Alta.

Casey was perched inside a massive Buffalo search and rescue plane high above the Snowbirds, documenting the flight with her camera.

Time spent with Casey

“To be able to get that chance to go up in the sky with the Snowbirds was a lifelong dream that I didn’t think was ever going to happen,” Walker said.

“I was lucky enough to spend a handful of hours with Jenn. She was so amazing and left such an impression on me.”

When they came back down from the sky, Walker was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for the experience – he took a photo alongside Casey in the minutes following the exhilarating experience and couldn’t stop smiling.

“Genuine is the word. That’s been my experience with Jenn. She has that great smile. She’s always smiling. That’s how I’m going to remember her,” Walker said.


Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died Sunday in the crash. (Royal Canadian Air Force)

Storyteller, kind, warm and welcoming

Capt. Casey of Nova Scotia is being remembered as a gifted storyteller, a kind and generous friend and a proud member of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds team.

Casey, a public affairs officer for the Snowbirds, died on Sunday when the jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff and burst into flames in the front yard of a house in Kamloops, B.C.

The news has sent a shockwave of sadness across Canada. The Snowbirds have been on a cross-country tour to raise people’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walker took to his social media platforms in the hours that followed her death, saying he was at a “total loss for words” and that he was grateful for her being “such a huge part of one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.”

“She was always up for anything,” Walker told CBC Sports.

“She was just warm and welcoming from the very first time we messaged.”


Walker shared his condolences on social media after Casey’s death and expressed gratitude for the experience he had with her and the Snowbirds. (Tristan Walker)

That’s what Casey wanted for everyone she came across. She wanted people to experience moments. And she created them for so many people, including a number of other Olympians who had the chance over the years to spend time with the Snowbirds and take to the air.

Last summer, when Walker showed up at the Springbank Airport outside of Calgary driving his motorcycle, Casey fulfilled another one of his dreams.

He’s always had a need for speed and craves the rush of adrenaline – partly why he luges. It’s also why he suggested burning down the runway alongside the roaring jets on his motorbike. He wanted to recreate a scene from Top Gun and knew it was a crazy thing to ask.

“She immediately made a phone call and made it happen,” Walker said, laughing.

“I don’t think anyone has been allowed to do the Top Gun reenactment. She was filming it from the airshow stand.”

Family affair

Walker describes what he felt during his time with Casey and the Snowbirds team as being family-like – and for Walker it was all very close to his family too.

Walker’s grandfather Len Bolger flew CF-100s with 409 Squadron, at the same Canadian Forces Base Comox he was able to fly with the Snowbirds.

During every Olympics he’s competed at in 2010, 2014 and 2018, Walker has kept his grandfather’s Royal Canadian Air Force wings in his uniform.

“Because of my grandfather I had grown up with everything being about aviation,” he said.

“My experience with the Snowbirds added more inspiration to being an aviator.”

Walker is in the midst of working on getting his helicopter license, more motivated than ever to take to the air again to pay tribute to Capt. Casey.

“Two weeks ago, she got in touch about potentially speaking at their 50th anniversary celebration,” Walker said. “If there’s any opportunity with that, I’d like to be a part of that for sure.”

And the first thing Walker would say if he was asked to speak?

Thank you, Captain Casey.

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Christine Sinclair on Abby Wambach: ‘She pushed me to levels I didn’t think were possible’

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After becoming international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer, Christine Sinclair spoke about the impact Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach had on her career.

After becoming international soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer, Christine Sinclair spoke about the impact Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach had on her career. 1:10

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‘She is the star now’: Fans react to Bianca Andreescu’s Rogers Cup victory

Canadians celebrated on Sunday when 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont, became Rogers Cup champion — the first Canadian woman to win the tennis tournament in 50 years.

Andreescu was declared the winner after tennis legend Serena Williams was forced to retire from the match at Toronto’s Aviva Centre with a reported upper-back injury. Andreescu was leading the first set 3-1 when Williams called for a medical timeout and later retired.


Andreescu, right, stands alongside Williams during the trophy presentation at the Rogers Cup. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Tia Trovato, a 19-year-old hockey player, said while she was happy to see Serena in person, she was hoping for a Bianca win. “I didn’t see that coming, that was shocking,” Trovato said of Williams’s retirement from the final.

“I know that she is getting a little bit older but she always fight so hard in her matches, I never thought that would happen. I thought they were going to fight it to the end but props to Bianca. We’re the same age, that’s so crazy that she’s winning the Rogers Cup at 19,” Trovato added.


Tia Trovato, a 19-year-old hockey player, said while she was happy to see Williams play in person, she was hoping for an Andreescu win. (CBC)

‘It was a great match’

Jim Vice was also hoping to see the two fight it out to the end for the winner’s trophy, but he was still very happy with the result.

“It was a great match,” Vice told CBC Toronto.

“It would have been a lot of fun to see them go to the end but we all like to see Bianca win. That was very popular.”

Williams said the injury is a recurring back spasm that doesn’t affect her ability to walk but makes serves and overhand shots painful. She’s expected to go to Cincinnati for the next stop on the WTA Tour to test it out ahead of the U.S. Open.


Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., was up 3-1 in the first set at Aviva Centre when Williams called for a medical timeout and later retired from the final. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Jennifer Burtyanoff  says she was “surprised” to see Serena pull out 20 minutes in. Even so, she says it does not diminish the importance of the win for Andreescu.

“It’s a true win, man. She played, she beat her, it’s the way the game goes,” Burtyanoff told CBC News.

“It was bittersweet but I guess that’s the way it goes.”


Fan Jennifer Burtyanoff said even though the game was cut short, it did not diminish the importance of the win for Andreescu. (CBC)

Irma Fine was one Canadian rooting for Serena Williams. But when it was all over, she only had five words.

“She is the star now,” Fine said of Andreescu.

‘Golden years,’ Tennis Canada exec says

For Dave Bertrand, Andreescu always had a good chance, even if Williams had not retired.

“It would have been a heck of a match,” Bertrand said. “It was great for Bianca. She deserved it. I think it’s a good win and we’ll see some good things possible in Cincinnati and definitely the U.S. Open.

“I don’t know what’s happening in Canadian tennis but it’s good and I hope it keeps on going,” Bertrand added.


The Romanian flag was also on display Sunday at the Rogers Cup final in Toronto. Andreescu was born in Mississauga, Ont., to Romanian parents and speaks the language fluently. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada agree with Bertrand that these are great times for Canadian tennis.

“Tennis is a great sport in this country. It’s the golden years right now. The next 10 years are going to be special,” Downey told CBC News.


Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada, said ‘it’s the golden years right now’ for Canadian tennis. (CBC)

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‘She will go on’: How organ donation is helping one man grieve his wife’s death

Phil Gardner and his wife, Mabel, spent their last morning together in December 2018 quietly sipping coffee in their living room while their cats Gus Gus and Maggie roamed about the house.

“She said, ‘I got the coffee made, the cats have been fed, getting everything ready, we’re going to have a great day,'” he said in an interview from his home in Valley, N.S., outside Truro.

Phil Gardner left the room for a moment and then heard Mabel’s coffee cup clunk on the floor.

He found her slumped back in her chair without a pulse. He called 911 and started chest compressions. Paramedics arrived and worked on Mabel, but were not able to bring her back. She died of a heart attack, leaving Gardner reeling.

“It was a very traumatic experience, walking in the living room and finding she’s gone,” he said.


Phil and Mabel Gardner. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

After the paramedics made the call there was nothing more they could do, one of them saw on Mabel’s MSI card that she had signed up to be an organ and tissue donor.

It was Gardner’s idea: he signed up for the donor program years ago. A year before her death, Mabel decided to join as well. When the paramedic asked Gardner if he wanted to contact the tissue bank, he agreed right away.

‘An amazing story’

By mid-morning, the donation team brought Mabel’s body to Halifax, where 25 pieces of tissues were taken from her body before cremation.

“So she will go on and help up to 25 people, which is to me an amazing story, and it all started with the wherewithal [of the paramedic] at the time of crisis because I certainly was not in any position at that time to start thinking tissue bank,” said Gardner.

Mabel’s corneas have already helped restore sight for two people, and five other people have also been helped by her eye tissue. That’s especially meaningful for Gardner, because Mabel was blind from birth in one eye.


Phil and Mabel Gardner were married in Chéticamp in 1975. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Staff also took 18 bone grafts, which can help people during surgery.

Dr. Michael Gross, the medical director of the tissue bank at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, said even people who die at home can become donors if their bodies are moved to a hospital within 24 hours.

Organs such as hearts and lungs need blood to function and have to be transplanted quickly after death. Usually, the donor has to be in a hospital or very close by.

Why tissues ‘don’t have to be alive’

“Tissues, on the other hand, we can take and they don’t have to be alive,” said Gross. “We take them and we freeze them or we keep them in a solution made for corneas for some time.

“They will survive — corneas will survive a period of time — and tissues we can process and put into a freezer and keep for a long period of time.”

Tissue donation can include things such as corneas, skin, heart valves and bone grafts. A single donor can help up to 100 other people, depending on the donor’s age and the condition of their body.

Presumed consent legislation

Nova Scotia recently passed presumed consent legislation that requires people to opt out if they don’t want to be an organ donor. Over the next 12 to 18 months, health-care workers will figure out how to manage more donations.

For now, workers such as paramedics use their discretion when bringing up organ donation with a person’s family.

“It can be highly charged, highly emotional,” said Husein Lockhat, an advanced care paramedic who trains other paramedics. “We do have lots of examples though, where paramedics have asked that question and family have come back and said, ‘You know what, I wouldn’t have thought of that.’

“They’re extremely grateful and appreciative that we brought up the question because in that sort of time of distress, it wasn’t something that was at the forefront.”


Husein Lockhat is an advanced care paramedic who trains other paramedics. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Gross said the tissue bank is working on a process for educating health-care workers and the public about the presumed consent law. It won’t be in effect until it is proclaimed more than a year from now.

He said the medical workers the Gardners talked to got it right.

“We’re very sensitized to the fact that this is a terrible time, and the idea of some good coming out of a death is a subject that’s difficult to broach,” said Gross, adding he and his staff are grateful to the family and the paramedic.

How the donation helps Gardner grieve

Gardner said learning about his late wife’s donation is a comfort in his grief. He hopes more people will be open to organ donation after hearing her story.

“They can continue life after death,” he said. “It becomes a very important part of the grieving process, to know that Mabel has gone on and is helping people after death.”

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