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Maple Ridge woman honoured for bravery

On Saturday, a Maple Ridge mother who rescued four boys from a ravine in Cliff Falls was honoured for bravery by the Lifesaving Society at Vancouver's Fairmont Hotel.

Lelania Chapman was physically drained by radiation therapy to and her battle with breast cancer, but still found the strength to save the boys she came across during a walk on June 29.

The 43-year-old mother of three sons ages 25, 21, and nine, took her youngest boy along with three other neighbourhood children to the falls at Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

The short walk in the woods was her Chapman’s first outing after finishing radiation treatment.

“It was my actual first walk in three months,” Chapman said last summer.

During their travels, the group heard screams for help. The shouts were barely audible, muffled by the sound of the rushing waterfalls.

They peered down and saw four boys, all between 14 and 15 years old, stuck between two falls.

The boys, who said they had been cliff jumping, asked Chapman to call 9-1-1, but she wasn’t able to get any cell phone reception.

She was going to walk out of the park to get reception, but when one of the boys pleaded "I want my mom," she said “That was it for me,” and she determined to get them.

After climbing a fence, Chapman said she dropped and chipped her kneecap, but still forged on.

She crossed a waterfall, using a small rope that she had brought in her backpack to tie herself to a large piece of wood sticking out of the falls.

The boys threw a rope – that they had brought – to Chapman, who climbed a ravine and attached it to the thickest tree branch she could find, and pulled the the first boy up, and then together they pulled the rest to safety.

After the rescue, Chapman became Facebook friends with the teens, who, she said, were extremely grateful.

For Chapman, the ordeal made her see how much fight she still had, during a trying time.

“When you get diagnosed with a really serious illness, it’s life-changing, it really is,” Chapman said. “The night before, I was burned [by the radiation] so bad, beyond bad, to the point where you say to yourself, ‘How can I do this anymore?’”

Doctors also found two other tumours. Chapman shared that she didn’t believe she was going to have the strength to endure her cancer battle.

To brighten her mood, and get away from what she calls “stinking thinking,” she took the children on an excursion.

The day out in the sun turned out to be so much more for Chapman.

She said to the teens, “This just wasn’t me grabbing a rope and pulling you out. This is a lot more than what you think.”

A tear trickled down Chapman’s cheek as she recalls what she said to the boys.

“I didn’t save you guys, I’ll be honest with you,” she related, her voice shaking with emotion. “I think you guys really did save me.”

Chapman was one of 13 people honoured at the 105th Annual Commonwealth Awards for Honour and Rescue.

 

- with files by Troy Landreville

 

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