Support grows for family

Communities rally behind Armstrong mom who lost two kids in a motorhome fire

The community is rallying behind an Armstrong mother who lost her two children in a motorhome fire last week.

Friends and strangers alike are lining up events and trust funds to help with costs and support for Darice Keating, whose children, Ava Claassen, five, and Austin Claassen, four, died Oct. 12.

The Claassens were travelling with their grandparents and had camped near Lytton, just off the Trans-Canada Highway, when a fire broke out in the motorhome shortly before midnight.

The kids and grandparents were all rescued from the motorhome. The Claassens died in hospital and the grandparents – also from Armstrong – remain in Kamloops hospital.

Brent and Susie Helland of Vernon have organized a three- and five-kilometre fun run and or walk on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Polson Park. All funds will go directly to the Keating family to help with funeral expenses or bill payments while Darice is going through this horrible event.

“Darice and I grew up together, we went to high school together and I know her family,” said Brent, who also served in Keating’s wedding party. “She’s always been in my life. My wife jumped right on board asking what we could do to help her.”

The cost will be $15 per person or $40 per family (three or more people). Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the run starts at 10 a.m.

The Hellands have also arranged with Interior Freight and Bottle Depot to have proceeds from the return of empties donated to Keating.

If you’re returning empties and want to make a donation, simply say you’d like the empties to go to the Keating family.

On Friday, Oct. 28, Vernon band Mace is playing its annual Halloween Howl dance at the Elks Hall, and the band will donate proceeds from a 50/50 raffle to Keating and her family.

There will be a benefit dance and silent auction at Monashee’s Bar and Grill on Thursday, Nov. 3, featuring local band The Goods. All proceeds will go to the Keating family.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the band Redfish will play a benefit dinner and dance that evening at the Branding Iron Pub in Armstrong. A silent auction will also be offered at the event with all proceeds going to the Keating Family Fire Fund.

Trust funds have also been established at area financial institutions to help with costs and one company vows to match donations.

Valley First Credit Union is stepping up its support by pledging to match all donations made to their trust account as the children’s grandmother is one of its longest serving employees.

“This is a devastating and tragic event,”said  Valley First president Paulette Rennie.

To support the Keating family, Valley First will match all donations, up to $10,000, made to trust account number 799015-201. Donations can be made at any Valley First branch.

Anybody wishing to make a donation can do so in Vernon at the TD-Canada Trust on Anderson Way, quoting branch number 9880 and account number 6433559. Donations can also be made electronically through TD-Canada Trust online banking by clicking “send money.” The e-mail to use is

There is also a trust account set up at VantageOne Credit Union in Vernon (across from Staples). The account information is Darice Keating in Trust and account number is 897744.