GILROY, Calif. -- Ryan Dikes showed up 2½ hours early to be first in line. Sporting a teal No. 65 Erik Karlsson jersey, the 25-year-old Hollister, California resident was anxious to collect autographs from his favorite hockey player.
"This is a great gesture," Dikes said. "It's a Monday and look at all this support. And it's not just anybody. It's the stars on the team."
Five current Sharks, led by center Logan Couture, and two alumni players spent 90 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with residents of this tight community that was rattled by a recent tragedy.
On July 28 a gunman killed himself, three others and wounded 17 people attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The shooting occurred in the final hour of the annual three-day event that raises funds for non-profit groups.
Couture and the Sharks signed autographs at the Gilroy Veterans Hall then attended a dinner at The Milias Restaurant. Approximately $27,500 was collected for the Gilroy Foundation, which assists those affected by the shooting.
"For me it was an easy to say yes," Couture said inside the Gilroy Veterans Hall. "My dad was a firefighter and a cop, so I felt for him and what first responders go through on a daily basis."
Forward Kevin Labanc joined Couture, Karlsson, center Tomas Hertl and defenseman Brenden Dillon. Alumni Jonathan Cheechoo and Jamie Baker and Sharks radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky were also on hand.
Dina McQuaid thanked Dillon then turned and congratulated Hertl on his recent marriage. McQuaid was on a European vacation or she would have been working in the VIP tent on the last day of the festival.
McQuaid, born and raised in San Jose, relocated to Gilroy, 30 miles southeast of her native city, five years ago.
"My cousin was there and actually saw [the shooter] jump the fence," McQuaid said. "She made eye contact with him. She's still traumatized and jumps at loud noises."
"For the Sharks to take the lead on this means a lot," McQuaid's friend, Amber Wipfler, said.