Los Angeles, CA – Four years ago today, college athlete Ashley Neufeld, 21, and two of her softball teammates, Kyrstin Gemar and Afton Williamson, went out on a stargazing trip to a local field when their SUV crashed into a farm pond in Stark County, North Dakota. Tragically, Ashley and her friends, unable to escape when the car became submerged in water, never returned from their adventure.
An accomplished softball player, valued teammate and aspiring softball coach, Ashley grew up in Brandon, Manitoba, where she competed in several Canadian and Western Canadian Championships and as part of the Manitoba Team at the 2005 Canada Summer Games. As a result of her fruitful early career, she attended Dickinson State College in North Dakota on a scholarship, where she met the two young women who were with her on November 1, 2009, the day her life was tragically cut short.
In the wake of Ashley’s fatal accident, friends and family created the Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund to honor Ashley’s life and raise funds with a customized resqme tool with her name on it. The foundation came up with two primary goals: do whatever possible to prevent a similar incident from happening again and honor Ashley’s life by supporting local softball leagues.
It was then that a partnership with car safety device company resqme, Inc., was forged. Originally designed for emergency personnel, the resqme device is an easy to use, lightweight and extremely powerful tool equipped with a protected sharp blade to cut jammed seatbelts and a spring-loaded spike to shatter car windows in the event of vehicle entrapment.
“My niece and I were friends of the Neufeld family and after the event had several conversations about what we might be able to do for the family and to honor Ashley. We came up with the idea to find a device that might save someone in similar circumstances,” said Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund co-founder Brett Turner, “The girls were not killed in a collision, they died because they couldn’t escape the car. We found the resqme tool though online searches and contacted the company. A group of softball coaches in Brandon formed the Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund and we began selling the resqme tool in Ashley’s name.”
The Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund thought the resqme tool was a perfect fit for fundraising efforts because of its reliability and commitment to saving lives. Thus, the “Ashley tool” was born—a resqme device bearing Ashley Neufeld’s name.
Since resqme and the Ashley Neufeld Fund began their partnership, over 7,000 resqme tools have been sold and over $520,000 has been raised in Ashley’s memory. Most importantly, the Ashley Neufeld resqme tool is saving lives.
In Ashley’s home of Province of Manitoba, several incidents of vehicle entrapment have come to the foundation’s attention in which the “Ashley tool” was used to save lives.
First, a young man used his “Ashley tool” to escape his submerged vehicle after he lost control and rolled his truck into a ditch. Another young man was trapped in his vehicle after rolling into a ditch, this time dry, and was able to escape his locked seatbelt using the sharp blade on his resqme keychain.
In a separate incident, the Ashley resqme tool helped save the life of a baby girl who was accidentally locked inside a vehicle on a hot day. Her mother, in a panic, tried to break into her car with no success until a good citizen with an “Ashley tool” was able to break the window and free the baby.
In honor of the fourth anniversary of Ashley’s fatal accident, the Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund and resqme hope to continue to raise awareness about car safety and funds for local softball leagues through resqme sales. Despite having raised enough money to begin construction on two new softball diamonds expected to be completed this coming spring, the foundation is looking to raise $680,000 more to complete their project.