While they continue to work their way through their terrible loss, Bonita and Roger Bott paused for a few moments on Wednesday to thank everyone who has offered them support, and to talk a little about their daughters, “the best girls in the world”.
Speaking with strong voices, outside Withrow Gospel Mission just down the road from their farm — the couple stood close together, taking turns reading a prepared statement.
“To say that we are overwhelmed with how this is unfolding would be a huge understatement. We ourselves are still in shock with the situation.”
In the early evening of Oct. 13, their daughters — twins Jana and Dara, 11, and Catie, 13 — were in the back of a truck with canola seed when they became covered by the seed and and smothered. Jana and Catie died at the farm. Dara was transferred by STARS to an Edmonton hospital but she passed away there hours later.
Since then, the farm community has reached out to help the Botts in various ways, such as helping with their harvest. A fundraising campaign has drawn donations locally, nationally and internationally. The Bott farm is in the hamlet of Withrow, which is about 60 kms west of Red Deer.
The couple, dressed casually in jeans, were calm and friendly, and mostly composed, as they read the statement before media, even thanking them for what they called sensitive reporting.
“We’ve enjoyed reading the supportive comments on Facebook and the GoFundMe.com page. It’s overwhelming to keep up with, but I’d say we’ve read a lot of it, and are warmed when we see how far this is reaching, and the various connections to our family,” the Botts said.
“We are so humbled with it all. Thank you.” They have one other child, their nine-year-old son, Caleb.
Various fundraising efforts include $116,000 raised on one gofundme.com website, more than $23,000 came from a weekend motorcycle ride, as well as about $40,000 raised Wednesday at the Innisfail Auction Mart. A trust fund has been set up at the Eckville Credit Union.
“As far as wondering what our girls were like, we have a biased opinion on that; they were awesome! The best girls in the world. They were cool to be with, they were comfortable with themselves and with other people. They all really enjoyed the farm and activities like camping, fishing, quadding and horseback riding. They were becoming a big help around the farm with yard work and cooking. And not Kraft dinner either — although we’ve had plenty of that; they would fry chicken or prepare chili and spuds. They loved family outings and spending time with their cousins.”
They went on to describe each child separately.
Catie had a desire to set a good example for her younger siblings and to make good decisions. She was honest and trustworthy. She loved to read and was the official co-ordinator of the Operation Christmas Child campaign at church.
Jana was a bit quieter in nature. She had a soft personality, and was gentle with others. She was a good friend. She didn’t like conflict, and made efforts to live peaceably with her siblings.
Dara had a very strong personality and was determined to carry out whatever plan she had. Bonita began to cry when she said she had told Dara more than once that someday she was going to run an efficient household and be a great mother.
“As far as where the girls are now, we are very confident that they are with Jesus. As you’ve noticed and covered, God is a very big part of our lives … That’s why we are not concerned about where they are. We are looking forward to when we will see them again. So that part is okay.
“It’s the here and now that we are faced with. So, how are we going to get through this? … Actually, we are not going to get through this, but the Lord is going to bring us through. … We don’t believe that God did this, but we are believing that He is taking this and will make something good come out of it.”
Family friend and neighbour Dave Brand said that there will be costs for the family, such as professional help, and funds raised will help provide a buffer for them.
The funeral will take place at 1 p.m. on Friday at the large CrossRoads Church on the west edge of Red Deer. Withrow Gospel Church Pastor Brian Allan, the Bott’s minister and also a close friend, will conduct the service.