Fire Fighters Step Up for Playground Memorial

RandyCherie-newAn initiative to remember two boys who perished in a January house fire on the Snaw-naw-as First Nation Reserve received a substantial boost Friday with a $5,000 cheque from the firefighters who fought the deadly blaze.

The money, from the Lantzville Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, will go towards the construction of two playgrounds dedicated to the memory of nine-year-old Jordan Drake and his six-year-old brother Devon. One playground will be built at Lantzville’s Seaview School, the other at the Reserve itself. Total cost of the project is estimated to be $80,000.

“I’m speechless,” said Seaview PAC chair Cherie Alyward, who conceived the memorial idea as a way to grieve the loss of the students. “I can’t be more proud of our fire fighters. This is a great start.”

The gift represents 25 per cent of the Association’s entire annual fundraising. Except for an occasional grant, Lantzville’s volunteer fire fighters raise money through sheer hard work – staging a massive garage sale each April and going door-to-door pitching calendars each September.

Funds typically go towards public education in fire safety and prevention, earthquake preparedness, home escape planning and for bursaries, smoke alarms and fireworks every Halloween. However, Association Treasurer Lt. Randy Austin says the donation was an easy sell to the village’s volunteer fire fighters.

“When we arrived at the fire, the house was totally engulfed. We knew there was nothing we could do, and that has been difficult for all of us. I think this is really our way of wanting to help out, to do what we can to remember Jordan and Devon.”

The donation brings Alyward’s playground fund to almost $10,000. She has received numerous promises of support from other community organizations and doesn’t anticipate a shortage of volunteers to assemble and install the equipment. The Snaw-naw-as Reserve recently held a bake sale and contributed nearly $700 to the playground plan.

“The whole community has been touched by this tragedy,” she said. “This donation from the fire fighters will just increase awareness that there are those out there prepared to contribute.”

If the money continues to flow, Alyward said the plan is to build the Seaview playground first – ground breaking is tentatively set for summer of 2013 – with the Reserve playground to follow. In the meantime, Alyward intends to erect a memorial bench on school property by the end of this school year. It will face the Reserve, and allow anyone using it to reflect on what the school and the community lost that night.

“Jordan and Drake always had a smile on their faces. They loved to play outside. What better way to keep their memory alive than with a playground.”

Posted in April 2012, Featured, Lantzville Fire Rescue

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