One person's trash is another person's treasure. It's the basic premise of the yard sale.
Unfortunately for Janet Tremblay of New Maryland, her family didn't realize just how dearly she treasured her late father's 1970s wood-frame snowshoes, with rawhide webbing and leather straps, before they were accidentally sold last weekend at their yard sale.
Now Tremblay has issued an impassioned plea for the man who picked up the snowshoes, dropped a donation for the ALS Society into a bucket and walked away, to return them to her.
"I have to have them back," she told CBC Information Morning Fredericton. "I have to."
"They were never intended to be part of that sale."
There's another twist to this story.
It wasn't the usual run-of-the-mill, spring cleaning event. It was about much more than clearing out a basement or a closet.
"We had decided that we were going to have to end up selling our house due to my health," Tremblay said.
The 56-year-old was diagnosed with ALS just this past winter.
According to the ALS Society of Canada, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease, gradually paralyzes a person because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles.
Someone living with ALS will eventually lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and breathe.
'A bit of a circus'
Tremblay, her husband and their four children had been "slowly clearing out" their house over the past several months as they prepared to downsize into an apartment.
She listed some items to give away on a New Maryland Facebook page, but with the large amount of stuff they wanted to get rid of, the logistics became too onerous.
He was my everything. He was my hero. He was my inspiration — still is, even though he's gone
- Janet Tremblay
"My daughter said we should just put everything out on the front lawn and just let people come and take it."
Tremblay thought that was an excellent idea, but suggested that in exchange for their belongings they accept donations, which would be turned over to the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
When the yard sale weekend arrived, a lot of things had been "piled up" in the garage, she said.
"Where I was unable to be of any assistance, my husband and teenage sons and daughter were setting it all up with the help of many friends."
By the time she made it outside Saturday morning, the sale was "well underway."
"It was a bit of a circus out there," said Tremblay, "with tents and a barbecue going and music playing and lots of treats for kids."
It wasn't until later that evening she realized the snowshoes were gone.
"My husband casually mentioned something about them — that a friend had seen the man leaving with them and then said to my husband, 'Oh, if I had known you were selling those snow shoes I would have taken them.' And then I said to my husband, 'What? You sold the snowshoes?'"
"Everything kind of spiralled from there," said Tremblay. "I was completely devastated."
"This has been a really emotionally charged situation — emptying out the contents of our life. This is where we've raised our children."
She knew she had to get rid of "pretty much everything," but the snowshoes were one of a few items she wanted to hold onto.
"They were really important to me," she said.
What gives the snowshoes such deep meaning to Tremblay is time spent with her father, who died in 2005.
"He was my everything," she said, "He was my hero. He was my inspiration — still is, even though he's gone."
She remembers the Christmas he got them as a present from her eldest sibling, when she was about 10 years old.
"He immediately put those snow shoes on, grabbed a tuque and went out … walking around the yard like he was a great explorer and just carrying on.
"He was just a real character, a real funny guy.
"I just remember that moment … my family being around and everybody just laughing our heads off at my dad out in just his clothes and his toque and these snowshoes wandering around."
Later on, said Tremblay, her family lived in a house near a wooded area, and she and her dad would go snowshoeing together.
"He would sort of break the trail with those snowshoes.
"I trudged along behind him. Those are just really special memories."
She's hopeful word of her hunt will reach the right person and result in the snowshoes being returned to her.
Offers of help
Since she posted about the mishap on social media, Tremblay said she's received a lot of support.
A woman she doesn't know has offered to give the man a pair of replacement snowshoes if he brings Tremblay's back.
If she does get them, she plans to keep them at the family cottage her father built "with his bare hands," with assistance from her mom, together with some other favourite sporting items of his, including a canoe and Blue Jays ball cap.
Tremblay's friends are organizing another ALS fundraiser for this weekend.
Her friend Krista Touesnard started planning an ALS walk in Fredericton after Tremblay mentioned that her son would be attending one in Halifax.
Participants will head out Saturday afternoon, said Tremblay, meeting on the trail between the Delta hotel and the Victoria Health Centre and walking to the Tipsy Muse Cafe on Regent Street, wearing purple — for ALS — and yellow — for hope.