The legacy of Dayna Brons is one of a vibrant young woman who undertook a path not many of her counterparts take. Her journey led her to a family of hockey players in Humboldt and the fulfillment of a long-held dream. The athletic therapist worked diligently at her training and her craft, and in doing so, became a “big sister” to the players on the Humboldt Bronco Jr team.
Years later her spirit continues to inspire, and in the case of Rebecca Kayda, that inspiration was delivered a half a continent away. Rebecca is an athletic trainer, the American equivalent for an athletic therapist, with Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Like so many others around the world, she witnessed the tragic news unfold around the Humboldt Broncos Tragedy through news outlets and social media. A woman working with predominantly male athletes, Kayda was immediately struck by Dayna Brons’ story. She saw something of herself in the young woman whose journey was suddenly cut short.
“I kind of felt an instant connection to the situation because I had just finished my first year with our ice hockey program,” explains Kayda. “I am also the only girl on a guys team, and I travel with them on the bus every weekend during the season, and it was just kind of an immediate personal connection for me. This is the kind of tragedy that could happen to any one of us.”
That glimpse into mortality deeply affected Kayda, so much so that her husband Tom began to help work on an outreach project. Like so many others who have worked to bring light to the world in the face of a horrific darkness, Tom Kayda got in touch with Carol and Lyle Brons, Dayna’s parents, and with Rebecca’s university to see if there could be a collaboration that might be able to benefit others.
After confirming that Tom’s and Rebecca’s mission was genuine, the wheels started to turn toward some kind of memorial for Dayna.
“Thankfully, she (Carol) was gracious enough and willing enough to let us take something on to help remember their daughter, which I am incredibly, incredibly humbled by. My husband surprised me during the holidays to let me know he had made the connections, and that starting a scholarship would be something that everyone would support me on.”
From there, the Pennsylvania based couple went about establishing a charitable foundation and moving into establishing a scholarship fund. The Dayna Brons Memorial Scholarship is in its first year with funds largely generated from a golf outing set up for the Foundation. July 9, the same date as Carol’s and Lyle’s wedding anniversary, will mark the golf tournament. Thus far, local companies and charitable donations have formed the underpinning of the scholarship. The Kayda’s are confident that the annual golf tournament, much akin to the host of tournaments in Canada that support the legacy Bronco’s, will become the long-term funding basis. The Professional Hockey Athletic Training Society has also come on board to help with the tournament.
This year’s award amounted to $250, but the hope is to ramp up the value with continued participation by Pittsburgh and area donors, looking toward national funding in the future. The eventual goal is to have a $1000 scholarship available to students in the nine schools that offer athletic training programs in the greater Pittsburgh region.
The first Dayna Brons Memorial Scholarship was awarded this April to Chatham University student Matt Calas. Matt hails from Mississauga, ON. He arrived at the university in 2018 to play goal for the hockey team. He was incredibly successful on the ice, battling back from several injuries, and ultimately was one of the best goalies in the UCHC League. Calas later entered the athletic training Master’s program at Chatham. Rebecca Kayda characterizes Calas as the first recipient.
“Having known Matt for almost five years now, I can honestly say there are very few people like him. I was able to watch him grow into an incredible young man who is selfless, passionate, committed, and one of the kindest people I know. Matt was a great teammate, an excellent classmate, always willing to help others study, and was a great colleague in our facility as well.”
The ripples of connection in a case like the Bronco’s tragedy and the life of a shining example of caring like Dayna Brons are mysterious, but they are undeniable. The Kayda’s work toward establishing an award honouring a woman they had never met is a testament to those connections.
To find out more about the award and how to contribute, head to daynabronsscholarship.org.
Enjoy Discover Humboldt's conversation with Rebecca Kayda