Small town came to the rescue of stranded school team

Northern Collegiate basketball coach Chris Jones addresses his players during a December tournament in Windsor. Bruce Smith photo

Cathy Dobson

Coach Chris Jones still can’t believe the generosity of a small town that came to the rescue of the entire Northern Vikings basketball team when their bus broke down.

After leaving an OFSAA tournament in North Bay recently, Northern’s bus developed a problem on the highway and limped into the Bickley Ford dealership in Huntsville.

Minutes before the dealership closed, Jones learned the bus had a major computer issue and the team would have to stay the night.

“We were stuck,” he said.

And there was more bad news the next morning. The part needed to get home wouldn’t arrive until the next day.

That’s when Bickley Ford owner, Doug Sullivan, heard about the team’s troubles. They don’t call him Santa Sullivan in Huntsville for nothing.

“He said they’d help us out and find free accommodation for us the second night,” said Jones. “He gave us a car free-of-charge to get around town and made arrangements for the kids to work out at the local gym and tour Huntsville High School.”

Sullivan also contacted a car rental shop and found transportation for some team members with pressing needs back in Sarnia. No vans were available, so the rest of the team had to wait for the bus repair.

So Sullivan offered to take the remaining 12 to dinner.

“I do these things because it feels good,” he told The Journal. “I take pride in helping people in a bit of a situation.”

Sullivan said he’s a member of the Huntsville Rotary Club and called on a fellow Rotarian and owner of the local Comfort Inn to help the Northern team.

“Rotarians go above and beyond,” he explained. “People have said, ‘Wow, that’s not something you find every day.’

“But our little town certainly came together. It’s the way it should be.”

Sullivan’s wife, Ramona (nee) Guindon was born in Sarnia and still has family here. But that isn’t what motivated him, said Sullivan.

“The team could have been from anywhere.”

Jones said the two unexpected days in Huntsville were full of teachable moments.

“The greatest thing was that the kids saw that kind of generosity first hand. They are great kids and recognized it without it being point out to them,” he said.

And what about the repair bill from the dealership?

The bus belongs to Northern, having been donated some time ago. It has an extended warranty but Jones expected to see the deductible on the bill.

“When I got it the bill was zero. Doug took care of it,” he said.

“He really made a bad situation pretty great.  It felt like the whole city was looking out for us.”