UXBRIDGE: How many times have you and your loved ones been witness to tragedy, whether first-hand or half a world away, and had a conversation which ends on the sentiment of wishing you could do something more to help? Often, these conversations fade away and crumble under the stresses of daily life.
For one group of Uxbridge residents, a personal tragedy was the catalyst that drove a group of friends to raise money for one local child. The Bonner Boys have carried the torch for their beloved friend Brent Bonner for the past ten years, and grown from a group of five friends to an organization of more than 35.
The Bonner Boys, a not-for-profit charitable organization based in Uxbridge, are tallying up the money raised from their 'Come bust a Moooooove' fund-raising gala on Feb. 1. The event, which benefited two Uxbridge men who were injured in a farming accident late last year, is just one of the many community oriented projects which the Bonner Boys embark on every year.
The Standard met with Bob Ferguson, a member of the Bonner Boys and manager of parks and recreation facilities for the Township of Uxbridge, for a deeper look into the origin Bonner Boys; and perhaps even a peek into their future.
"We pitch in to help the people in our community in any way we can," said Mr. Ferguson. "Our causes range from the splash pad at the Uxbridge Arena, to helping a family through the struggles of illness and medical expenses – no job is too big or too small."
The list of causes which the Bonner Boys fund is long and distinguished; they personally sponsor a youth sports team in every league, manage a scholarship at Uxbridge Secondary School, raise money to help local children play sports and have organized fun and exciting galas to benefit families in need.
The Bonner Boys, who are now nearing the point of putting one million-dollars back into Uxbridge, come from humble beginnings.
"Back in 2004, my best friend Brent Bonner passed away in a car accident – he had a 10 month-old-son named Ben, so me and four of mine and Brent's friends got together to raise a trust fund and make sure Ben would be provided for," said Mr. Ferguson. "Brent was such a first-class guy, he was well known and he helped people however he could – the Bonner Boys just try to carry out the good work he did and keep his memory alive."
The Bonner Boys were unofficially formed with that single act of kindness, and as Mr. Ferguson puts it, "the projects and events were so exciting that we never stopped. It all snowballed from there; none of us expected the project to grow so big."
Mr. Ferguson explained that charity is the best therapy he could ask for when it came to dealing with the loss of his best friend. Brent Bonner's passing was very difficult for his friends to deal with, but they have found solace in the charity which bears his name.
"I was on the Fire Department at the time, so I was actually one of the first responders to the scene when Brent passed," said Mr. Ferguson. "It's been very, very hard on all of us. I'm just glad that ten years later, Ben is eleven-years-old now and he's playing hockey, doing well in school, and a really happy guy."
Throughout the group's first five years, the Bonner Boys never advertised their donations or their brand; they acted as low-key boosters of the community they loved.
"There was a big change a few years ago, when we started handling large amounts of money and decided to incorporate," said Mr. Ferguson. "Incorporating into an official charity brings many rules and regulations; we had to start taking minutes and someone had to be named president. Still, no single person runs the Bonner Boys – it's a huge family of members and supporters."
Many of the current Bonner Boys grew up in school or playing hockey together, and are now in their mid-thirties; an age where careers, children, and households demand the majority of their time and efforts.
Despite his busy life working for the Township of Uxbridge and taking his children to their gymnastics and hockey practices, Mr. Ferguson still finds time to the Bonner Boys' monthly meetings in his garage-turned-man-cave on Monday nights.
"We all gather round and turn the TV to a hockey game and pitch ideas and plans for the next step and the next person we want to help," said Mr. Ferguson. "I think the reason I can still find energy for the Bonner Boys is because it isn't work, it's a good, fun time with my friends. The biggest pay-off is seeing the look on someone's face when you change their life for the better."
"I'm really proud of all of the guys for sticking it out and giving their time," said Mr. Ferguson. "Whether you give us two hours a year or 500 hours a year, you're just as much a member of the team. We owe our success to everyone, from our corporate sponsors, to my mother who spends a week making food for 1200 people, to the kids who donate their birthday money because they want to help us help other kids."
The Bonner Boys' next big event is their eleventh annual hockey tournament, which draws 38 teams made up of players of every calibre – from the weekend pond-hockey warrior to current NHL players. It runs from May 2 to 4. For more information on coming events, or to learn how to become a part of the Bonner Boys, go on-line to www.BonnerBoys.org.