IN LOVING MEMORY
North River community park a beehive of activity a week after completion
— Alice Murphy (centre) is consoled during a moving ceremony on the grounds of All Hallows Elementary in North River on Saturday, June 8. A new community park was named in honour of her son, Cpl. Jamie Murphy, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in January 2004. Pictured with her are Sgt. James Butler (left) of the Royal Canadian Regiment, and Lt.Gov. Frank F. Fagan.
Coming around the corner to the rear of All Hallows Elementary in North River on a weekday afternoon last week, the scene that greets you is truly uplifting.
Looking up, you can see children zipping around the new Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy Community Park, bouncing from one play structure to the other.
Each child carries with them a smile as wide as an ocean.
They are shouting to their friends to come try this one, or join them in a rousing game of tag, or some other children’s pastime.
These are the sounds of children being children, something that was restored when the impressive park was completed on June 8 in a moving display of communities coming together.
“It’s just amazing,” Grade 4 student Andrew Tuck said on Wednesday evening, a smile lighting up his face. Andrew’s favourite new piece of equipment is the impressive and very unique rope dome, or what has been locally dubbed “The Cod Trap,” said to be the first of its kind in the province.
It takes a village
In a show of community spirit and pride that some say was unprecedented and heartwarming, more than 600 adults, students and special guests assembled on the school grounds June 8 for “build day,” a day-long process that felt just as much like a festival as it did a construction project.
It was the climax of many months of fundraising and planning by a core group of some 20 parent volunteers and school staff members, led by co-chairs and parent volunteers Eddie Russell of Clarke’s Beach and Vincent Dawson of Cupids.
Activities begin around 8 a.m., with hundreds of people donning special t-shirts and heading to the worksite (adults) to collect a shovel, rake, wheelbarrow or wrench, while many dozens of children made their way to the soccer field for a day of activities.
There was a massive barbecue and the entire event was broadcast live over the Internet, with viewers from throughout North America sending wishes of support through an interactive chat option.
As t h e day progressed , t he mood appeared to change as the final loads of stone were shovelled into place, and the dedication ceremony approached. There was a feeling of reverence in the air as dignitaries began to arrive, and the true weight of what was about to take place settled in.
Bagpiper Blake Cranford led a group of special guests around the school as hundreds took their seats. Among the guests was Alice Murphy of Conception Harbour, the mother of Cpl. Jamie Murphy, who was killed during a suicide bomber attack on his vehicle on Jan. 27, 2004. He was the first Newfoundlander kil led during the war in Afghanistan. He was 26 yearsof- age, and a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment.
With a chill in the air, two members of Jamie’s regiment, Sgt. James Butler and Master Cpl. Allan King, removed a covering from a massive sign at the entrance to the park, identifying the site as the Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy Community Park. The sign features a cut-out image of Cpl. Murphy that was taken in Afghanistan, not long before his death.
The unveil ling released a wave of emotion, with Alice Murphy being consoled by Sgt. Butler and Lt.- Gov. Frank F. Fagan.
Cpl. Murphy’s niece, Kearsty Ryan, spoke on the behalf of the Murphy family.
“He was my hero. He loved playing games, from softball to some games I’m not sure I know the name of. I know he would have loved this park and would have been the first person out with each child to make them smile.”
When asked what the building of the park meant for the children of the region, Russell struggled to contain his emotions.
“This is something else,” he said. “To see this many people come together in one day … and see it come to fruition today, it is emotional.
“I’m proud of everyone.” Added Principal Kevin Giles: “The boys and girls in this region, in this school, in all of these communities deserve what they’re getting today. As good as what any boy or girl would get in the country. That’s been my goal, and my hope and my wish all of the years that I’ve been here.”
In the middle of the ceremony, the All Hallows choral collection sang an original tune entitled “We Have the Chance of Our Lives.”
It was a reflection on what it means to the students to have a new play park to enjoy during the coming recess breaks and lunch hours for years to come.
“This park is great,” said Grade 6 student Jonah Rodway, who spoke on behalf of students at the kindergarten to Grade 6 school.
“All of the new equipment will be fun to try out and play on.”
Another feature of the new park is the memory garden. Principal Giles said additional donations were pouring in all last week from people wishing to have their loved ones remembered in the garden.
The park has been a boon for the school as well. Although there is a soccer field adjacent to the school, students were limited in their activity choices .
“It’s been a phenomenal boost,” said Giles. “It’s a positive thing for our school and school community.”
The total investment into the project is estimated at some $200,000, and future phases are being discussed.
Some $100,000 was raised locally through corporate donations, grants and fundraisers, while the Let Them Be Kids foundation is matching, dollar-for-dollar, all funds raised for the purchase of playground equipment.
Prior to the construction of the new play park, the playground at All Hallows was in rough shape. The site had been condemned by the Eastern School District last year, and was only reopened last spring, albeit with a limited amount of equipment available to children.
This was following a spirited effort by a group of parents and school staff.
The children of All Hallows Elementary had been waiting all day for the chance to use the new pieces of play equipment. When they finally got the chance to do so, they exploded in a scene of energetic chaos as they scrambled to use everything at their disposal.
The completed Corporal Jamie Brendan Murphy Community Park as seen from the roof of All Hallows Elementary.
The family of Cpl. Jamie Brendan Murphy (from left) sister Norma Murphy, sister Rosemary Ryan and mother Alice Murphy. Behind them are Master Cpl. Allan King (left) and Sgt. James Butler (centre) and Kearsty Ryan, Murphy’s niece.
The All Hallows Elementary fiddle group entertained the crowd during the ceremony.
Kearsty Ryan, the niece of Cpl. Jamie Brendan Murphy, spoke on behalf of the Murphy family at the dedication ceremony.
Master Cpl. Allan King (left) and Sgt. James Butler salute the picture of Cpl. Jamie Brendan Murphy as the sign commemorating the community park is unveiled. Volunteers assemble the impressive rope dome, or as it has become known locally, “the Cod Trap.”
While the adults were building the playground and memory garden, students were busy playing sports and other games on the soccer pitch. Here, Kyle Fowler ( left) and Tyson Kennedy celebrate after scoring a goal in soccer.
Parent volunteer Calvin Snow meaures some lumber to be used in the construction of picnic tables.
Ivan Batten ensures the stone around the new swing set is level.
Volunteers, children and community officials watch as the sign is unveiled.
Parent volunteer Mike Hurley (left) of North River marches with a shovel over his shoulder as Cory Keefe of Clarke’s Beach motors along in a skid-steer carrying a bucket of sand.
Bay de Grave Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Jeremy Hall (centre) works alongside Sgt. James Butler (left) and Master Cpl. Allan King at the top of the rope dome. Butler and King are members of the Royal Canadian Regiment and are based at CFB Gagetown, NB.
Planning committee co-chairman Eddie Russell was the master of ceremonies for the dedication ceremony.
Parent volunteer Craig Morrissey gives the “thumbs-up” as he secures the swings in place.
Members of the Bay de Grave Volunteer Fire Department were among the hundreds of volunteers who helped construct the impressive new community park.
Committee members Vincent Dawson (foreground) of Cupids and Jamie Morgan of Clarke’s Beach are seen laying sods.