The Brettell family receives one of many gifts presented to them during the Emily Brettell Memorial hockey game held on Dec. 17 at the Welland Arena in honour of their daughter Emily Brettell. Emily passed away suddenly in August 2016. From left, Emily’s brother Michael, sister Kathryn, mother Kerry, sister Sarah, and father Dave. DANIELLE PINE PHOTO


For 17 years E.L. Crossley student Emily Brettell touched the lives of everyone she met.

With a bright future ahead of her, the passionate young rowing sensation’s life was cut short last August when she died suddenly while training in her family’s basement.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, the communities of Fonthill and Welland came together to celebrate Emily’s life at the Welland Arena for the Emily Brettell Memorial Hockey Game.

Game organizers and friends of the Brettell family Dominic Aiello and Debbie Pine had been working hard over the previous two months to make the event a success.

Hearing of Emily’s passing from his daughter Lauren Aiello — who was a mentor and friend of Emily’s — Aiello felt the need to do something to carry on her legacy.

Having had success raising funds for a variety of causes with his charity hockey team in Welland, he came up with the idea to host a memorial hockey game.

When Aiello approached Pine to organize and promote the event with him she said she felt honoured to be a part of preserving Emily’s memory.

Once they began reaching out to their communities for support Pine said they were moved by how eager people were to pitch in.

“For weeks Dominic and I, along with our families, asked everybody we knew — clients, friends, family, businesses, colleagues, company reps — if they wanted to help out, and they all said yes,” said Pine.

“So many people jumped on board and participated. Everything for the event was donated.”

In total, 85 items were auctioned off including autographed NHL jerseys and hockey memorabilia, tickets for a Buffalo Sabres hockey game, golf packages and many other prizes. Each player on Team Welland also donated $100 and helped out by selling tickets and finding donors to contribute to the auction. The Voice donated advertising space. It truly was a community effort, Pine said.

That night the Welland bridge was lit up in blue and gold in Emily’s honour.

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and Welland Mayor Frank Campion were also in attendance to welcome the crowd to the game.

It was an emotional night for Emily’s family, friends, teammates and coaches and all those who gathered at the arena for the evening dedicated in her honour.

Despite the many tears shed on and off the ice that Saturday, Pine said there was a feeling of love and happiness filling the space.

“You could feel the energy in the arena,” Pine said.

“It was absolutely amazing. There were a lot of tears falling but it wasn’t a somber event at all, it was a very happy night.”

Pine said the event wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the donors and the kindness of the volunteers and players on Team Welland and Team Crossley who accepted the challenge to play in the game.

In the end, organizers raised enough funds to purchase a coxed four rowing boat and create a series of scholarships in Emily Brettell’s name.

The boat will be shared between the E.L. Crossley Rowing Club and the South Niagara Rowing Club and will be christened this April under the name the Emily Rose.