While Parksville Qualicum Beach residents mourn the death of six-year-old Ashley, his grieving aunt, Rebecca Coldwell, said her family is taken aback by the “outstanding” show of community support.
Ashley died late Christmas night. He mentioned having a headache before his mother, Becky Morton, tucked him into bed at his grandmother’s Nanaimo home. He said it was “the best Christmas ever.”
An hour later, a parents worst nightmare became a reality. Morton found her son out cold. Despite attempting CPR for over an hour on and being rushed by ambulance to the hospital, Ashley was pronounced dead in the early hours of Dec. 26.
According to Coldwell, the B.C. Coroners Service found swelling in Ashley’s brain citing the potential for a viral infection. The family is patiently waiting for more information.
In the face of such misfortune, the community of Parksville Qualicum Beach rallied together to provide support.
“It’s a nice feeling at a bad time,” said Coldwell, who said she was astounded by the three local fundraisers organized at a moment’s notice for her family.
“The Rod and Gun, the Upper Deck Sports Bar and the Frontiersman Bar and Grill all hosted events raising close to $15,000,” said Coldwell. “And Yates Funeral Service waved the cost of the service.”
Both parents grew up in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and have made a lot of connections.
“Darren and Becky, Ashley’s parents, are really great people,” said Coldwell. “It’s unfortunate that tragedy brings people together, but the silver lining is the outpour of care from the community.”
And support is coming in from all directions, including the Lower Mainland.
“Ashley was an avid Canucks fan,” explained Coldwell, fighting back tears. “So we all decided to wear Canucks jerseys for the service to honor him.”
However, Coldwell said Ashley’s grandparents had a nearly impossible time finding jerseys, as most stores were sold out after the busy Christmas season.
The grandparents trolled the internet, asked collectors and visited stores for two days straight to no avail. As a last resort, Ashely’s grandmother sent a Facebook message through the Canucks fan page explaining their story and attaching a photo of Ashley at the Canucks fan zone in downtown Vancouver, face painted with blue stripes.
Coldwell said a few days later, Ashley’s grandparents received an e-mail from Wynn Moody, the manager of sales and service for Canucks Sports and Entertainment, which read:
“Just wanted you to know that the jerseys will be FedEx’ed to you tomorrow morning. You should receive it within two business days. We were so touched by your e-mail and as soon as I opened the photo, I broke into tears. I recognized Ashley and his father. I remember seeing them in the store and admiring his team color whiskers. My heart goes out to your family. Our team is so lucky to have your support. Please let us take care of these jerseys. They will come to you at no charge. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of Ashley’s celebration of life. I hope that this will help you honor his memory. Please let me know if there is anything else that we can help with. Our deepest condolences for your loss.”
The celebration of life for Ashley Coldwell was held Wednesday at Yates Funeral Service. Family and friends wore Canucks jerseys to honor of one of their greatest fans, whose life was taken far too early.