Grade 7 and 8 students at St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School hold a replica of a model of the recently opened Bronte Veterans Garden.

Oakville memorial initiated by students

  • June 15, 2011

OAKVILLE, ONT. - It began with children writing to WW II war veterans and families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Five years later, the letter-writing efforts of Grade 7 and 8 students at St. Dominic Catholic Elementary School has led to a memorial for Canadian soldiers highlighting Halton’s “Veteran’s Highway.” It is Oakville’s first memorial to include veterans from Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

The Bronte Veterans Garden, located within Donovan Bailey Park, officially opened June 14 with the unveiling of two plaques placed at the base of a tree in memory of Cpl. Robert James Mitchell and Private Paul Parkin. Poppies will be planted between the plaques and a flower bed shaped like the Canadian flag will be grown at the garden.

Mitchell’s mother, Carol, visited the school from Owen Sound, Ont. after receiving letters and posters from St. Dominic’s students. Cpl. Mitchell died in Afghanistan in 2006. Other students wrote to Parkin, a World War II veteran and prisoner of war, to show their support and thank him for his service. Parkin, an Oakville resident who died in 2009, spent his last two Remembrance Days with the students at the school.

MacPhail said the idea of the Bronte Veterans Garden came from his Grade 8 students. For student Robert Sbrocchi, meeting Carol Mitchell last year had a significant impact. “It gave a different perspective” and took away some misconceptions, he said.

In a letter to Mitchell, Rachel Kotur, 13, wrote “I don’t really know how you would feel because I’ve never experienced something like that and feel sorry for your loss.”

“I didn’t know her at all and only saw a picure of her son’s face,” Kotur told The Catholic Register.

Grade 7 students helped raise funds for the plaques, manned information booths and spoke to local councillors about the idea. Student Tea Juricic, 13, said she hopes the project inspires others.

“So many families out there have lost their sons, daughters, wives and husbands to war and it’s just so upsetting how that can happen,” she said. “It might inspire other classes to do other projects like this.”

MacPhail commended the students’ dedication, which included spirited pitches to town councillors. “To do this at 12, 13 and 14 (years of age) is a remarkable achievement,” he said.

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