THUNDER BAY — The family of Kaitlin Restall, the Thunder Bay woman who died in a collision on Silver Falls Road last weekend, is overwhelmed by the support they've received while they continue to grieve.
A GoFundMe campaign for funds to help her two young sons in the years ahead had raised about $40,000 by mid-afternoon Thursday.
The 41-year-old perished last weekend in a single-vehicle collision on Silver Falls Road in Fowler Township.
Restall's brother-in-law, Nathanael Moulson, organized the campaign.
He says the family is doing their best to cope with their loss by spending lots of time together.
"There's kids involved. It's difficult to deal with kids in this circumstance, but it's also great to have their energy. They're easily distracted, which helps the adults get distracted as well."
Moulson described his sister-in-law as a strong and very creative person who was "full of life," saying she relished playing sports and spending time in the outdoors.
He also recalled her intelligence and sense of humour.
"She was funny. That's an understatement. She was extremely intelligent, and intelligent with her humour. She would often be the one with the great punch line that would have the room reeling."
Moulson called the response to the GoFundMe drive "surprising and overwhelming," yet in some ways not entirely unexpected.
"Thunder Bay's a great community. Canada's a great place to live. There's lots of support in times of crisis."
The proceeds from the fundraiser, he said, will make a big difference in the lives of the two children for years to come.
"Michael, Kaitlin's husband, is with the boys, who are ten and five, [and] both vibrant, active young guys. First of all it gives Michael some peace of mind with respect to taking care of the boys. And then of course, it enables them to participate in sports, and eventually schooling."
Moulson said one of his sister-in-law's main goals for her boys while she was working was to ensure they could participate in extracurricular activities.
He also expressed gratitude on the family's behalf for the efforts of all the people who offered to help search for Kaitlin on Sunday after she failed to arrive home.
"We set up that search page [online] and within a couple of hours we had 700-plus people involved. I was running it out of the Lappe store, and more than a hundred people showed up within an hour to scour the backroads."
The community's response did not go unnoticed even by her children.
On the night after the search came to its tragic conclusion, the older boy was asking his uncle questions about how the hunt for his mother had been conducted.
Moulson explained "I had some maps that people had printed off and donated. That's what spurred the conversation. Out of the blue, he said 'That's why my mom loved Thunder Bay so much. She loved the community and she loved the support.' "
He added, "Simple from his perspective. A 10-year-old articulated it so clearly and so simply, but I think it's something we're all feeling right now. It's such a strong community when something like this happens."
The family's ordeal, Moulson said, shows why it's important for people to pay attention to each other and enjoy the moments they have together.
"Because in this circumstance, literally in the blink of an eye, someone's not here anymore. Hug your loved ones closely, and don't waste the moments."
Funeral arrangements for Kaitlin Restall are pending.
OPP divers on Wednesday located her submerged van in the Kam River near Silver Falls Road.
Police are now examining the vehicle as they continue their investigation into the collision.