MONTAGUE – Hundreds of Islanders gathered at the high school here today to show their support for the families of three young men who died in a fire last month as well as the lone survivor of the incident.
While the boys were all from the Montague area, benefit organizer Krista Condon said the deaths seemed to affect all of P.E.I.
“It hit the whole Island, it hit everybody,” said Condon, whose husband is a cousin and godfather to survivor Brandon Quinn. “This is something that doesn’t happen and really is just a tragedy. Anybody that has children, their hearts go out to the families.”
Teenagers Joey Reeves, Brandon MacKinnon and Kenneth Irving lost their lives in an abandoned building in Charlottetown on March 29, while Quinn was able to escape and was treated for severe burns in Halifax before returning home.
It is still unclear as to how the fire started.
Condon said she decided to hold the benefit as a way to help the families.
While initially nervous about the turnout, she described the crowd as “marvelous.”
“It’s things like this that make the community pull together,” she said. “Everything you see has been donated by local businesses, everyone has been awesome.”
The benefit saw members from all four families, including Quinn, in attendance, as well as local musicians, students and friends.
Raffle tickets were sold and a silent auction was held, while sponsor Scotiabank offered to match funds raised throughout the day up to $5,000.
That money will go towards the families for costs related to the tragedy, including helping raise Reeves’ one-year-old son Isaiah.
Mother Mikayla Feener had been engaged to Reeves after dating for more than two years.
“He’s exactly like his dad, he loves to dance like him,” said Feener, who described Reeves as being able to make anyone laugh. “He was easy to relate to, you could talk to him about anything and he wouldn’t judge you.
“It’s been really, really hard, we all miss him.”
Adding to the tragedy was the fact Isaiah celebrated his first birthday just a day after the fire.
While Feener had taken some time off from high school after Reeves’ death, she said she plans to graduate after crediting him with helping her “get this far.”
“When I was pregnant, he encouraged me to keep going,” she said. “I’m not going to quit because he would want me to keep going.”
Raising funds for the families hasn’t been restricted to the one day.
Grade 12 students Brittney Collette and Destiny Jeffries had raised $707 prior to Sunday by passing a collection jar through the classrooms.
“It (the tragedy) definitely made an impact in our school, everyone is a lot closer now,” said Jeffries.
“It shows support for the families and Brandon (Quinn) and everyone that needs support right now from this tragedy,” added Collette. “I’d like to thank all the students that donated, even spare change.”
Jeffries noted it wasn’t just students that donated to the cause, with some teachers giving upwards of $40 and $50 dollars.
Perhaps the biggest donation came from one of the school’s custodians.
“For the school year he collected change kids left on the tables and floors,” said Jeffries. “He had that in a jar and donated it all.”
Student Dylan Ferguson was one of the entertainers for the event and agreed that the incident has made a big impact amongst the student body.
“It hit the school pretty hard, a lot of people are still upset and will be for a while,” he said. “But it’s good to see people can put something like this together and show how much they care.”
As of Sunday evening, Condon was unable to provide an estimate on funds raised at the benefit.
“At this point, as long as I’m able to give them anything, it’s going to be a help,” she said. “I can’t speculate… but as long as there is something that can help their financial burdens.”