Alex Dudal pulled up to the Spitfires game in a big black bus hauling a trailer stuffed with shrink-wrapped cases of water bottles.
The 13-year-old helped unload dozens of cases — each filled with 24 bottles — and piled them side-by-side, stacking them high inside the WFCU Centre.
The Spitfires game is just one place where Windsorites are flooding in to help more than 100,000 Flint, Mich., residents whose city water is contaminated with lead. The toxic water crisis led President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency.
Thursday evening fans decked in red-and-blue Spitfires gear came laden with water bottles to help fans of the other team: Flint.
Dudal’s family and friends heard of the call for water donations and decided to go all out.
“It’s a crisis. The people there need our help,” said Alex’s mom Tamara.
She recruited her company, St. Clair Insurance Brokers, to help fill the trailer, pulled by a bus donated by Z’s Auto Centre.
“We brought the bus just for the water,” Dudal said.
In the parking lot, WFCU Centre staff Ryan Wilson and Nicholas Sutherland piled water cases in the back of a Bobcat utility vehicle, weaving through the rows of cars to help fans unload.
One family unloaded eight cases of water from a little Chevy Volt. Another family pulled six packs from the back of their minivan.
“We just thought it was a neighbourly thing to do. We feel terrible about what happened,” said LaSalle resident Ken Griffon, who dropped off a pack with his wife Barb.
The Spitfires travel to Flint this weekend to play the Firebirds.
The plan had been to load the water bottles beneath the fan bus that’s heading to Flint on Saturday, said Nathan Sellon, co-ordinator of fan development for the Spitfires.
“Obviously we can’t put all this on a bus,” he said with a smile, gesturing to piles of thousands of bottles. Before the game, donations had come in around 19,000 individual bottles. By the end of the game, it was around 40,000.
Dominic Hennig, director of broadcasting and communication for the Flint Firebirds, had checked out the piles of water bottles before the game began.
“It was an amazing sight seeing all the cases of water stocked up at the WFCU Centre,” Hennig told the Star through text messages, in between announcing the play-by-play on the radio.
“Having other teams in the OHL help out with Flint’s water crisis just shows how first class of an operation the CHL is.”
The Spitfires are relying on a Leamington trucking company to drive the load down, where they’ll drop it with the Flint Firebirds Saturday.
Meanwhile, other local groups are also collecting donations to help the Michigan community.
Windsor Detroit Promoters plans to buy cases of water from local stores and drop them with the Catholic Charities of Genesee County Center for Hope in Flint.
People who didn’t donate at the Spitfires game but still want to help can contribute before the team heads to Flint.
Sellon said they will continue to collect donations Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon.