“When tragedy happens with kids, you talk to the kids and you give them a chance to talk,” said Cam McCormick, principal of Sowchea School.
Well, when Mrs. Madhock’s Grade 6/7 class finished talking, they had an idea.
The idea was to try and do something to help prevent another tragedy like the death of 11-year-old Nolan Alexis.
Nolan was killed on Nov. 4 on Highway 27 when he was struck by a pickup while crossing a dark stretch of the road through Nak’azdli Reserve.
Some members of Mrs. Madhock’s class knew Nolan, who was the same age as many students in the class, but many didn’t, yet his death has struck a chord with them all.
They are all students of Margaret Mattess, who teaches the class the Carrier language.
Mattess was Nolan’s step-grandmother.
The students came up with the idea they would provide reflective bracelets for children throughout the greater community, in the hopes of making children safer on the roads.
But they didn’t go forward with their idea without thinking or without some wisdom from their elders, and the students have definitely done their homework on this one.
The students are working with RCMP Constable Jeff Lance and Jhenipher Bridgeman, an at-risk youth worker at Fort St. James Secondary School (FSJSS). Constable Lance and four members of the class went out to visit Nolan’s mom Georgina Alexis to ask her permission to begin to follow through with their idea.
“It was very emotional,” said Alexis.
“When they came into my office that day I was having a really bad day,” she said. But the students’ proposal turned her day around.
“It just made me really happy to think that one child could start a movement,” she said.
She was amazed these students from Sowchea, who did not even know her son well, would want to do this to help other children.
“I was pretty speechless for awhile,” said Alexis. “It’s just amazing.”
She gave the students her blessing to begin their campaign, and now the students are full swing into their Be Seen – Be Safe Reflective Bracelet Campaign.
The students want to raise money to purchase around 1,500 reflective bracelets for every child in Fort St. James and the surrounding communities to have one.
“We decided that we don’t want it to happen again,” said class member Andrew Kemp, one of the students who spoke to Nolan’s mom. “We thought we were going to make her sad, but she was happy,” he said.
Happy they were going to take the tragedy and try and do something positive from it.
The students hope they can encourage other kids to wear the bracelets by setting an example, and they are also going to visit the high school to encourage older kids to wear them as well.
They have done research into the type and number of wristbands they would like to purchase, and have settled on a bright and more easily used bright yellow band, of which they would like to purchase in excess of 1,500. The students estimate it will cost them around $4,000 to $5,000 to purchase the amount they need to provide the bracelets for the Fort and the surrounding communities.
If they manage to purchase enough bracelets for every child in the Fort and area, they would also like to expand the campaign to include seniors and others in the community who may feel they need them when walking area roads.
So far, members of the class have phoned businesses and organizations for letters of support, have then taken those letters of support to approach different groups and businesses to sponsor their initiative.
The students have letters of support from ICBC, the local Chamber of Commerce, RCMP Staff Sergeant Paul Thalhofer, Nak’azdli Health, Tl’azt’en Education, Nak’azdli Band Council and FSJSS.
The students have asked for donations from different companies, and had just received an email from their first corporate donation when they spoke to The Courier. Mt. Milligan had made the first corporate donation and gave the students a commitment of $1,000 towards their cause.
They also received a large private donation the same day, when Mayor Rob MacDougall delivered a personal cheque for $100 towards the campaign.
Sammy Roessler, Alex Bruvold, Emily Sulyma, Rachel Gerbrandt, Callie Johnson. Sydnee Schlamp, Sarah Sabo, and Christina Bolotnikova are some of the students in the class who have written and/or made phone calls soliciting donations, and working hard on the initiative. Two of these students also wrote a letter applying for grant funding from Northern Health for the campaign.
More fundraising will be taking place in January, including having the proceeds from a movie night at Sowchea School on Jan. 18 going towards the bracelets. Anyone interested in donating towards the campaign can contact Mrs. Madhock’s class at the Sowchea School at 996-8248.