School community launches campaign for memorial playground

NANAIMO – Community has come up with a way to ensure two boys killed in a house fire on Nanoose First Nations land are not forgotten.

  • Feb. 24, 2012 11:00 a.m.

The Seaview Elementary School community has come up with a way to ensure two boys killed in a house fire on Nanoose First Nations land last month are not forgotten.

The school’s parent advisory council, with the support of the school and district, has launched a campaign to raise money for a memorial playground.

The two brothers, aged seven and nine, died Jan. 25 in an accidental fire on the reserve. They were brought to the house the night before for safekeeping due to a windstorm.

The campaign, called a Celebration of Life: Jordan and Devon Drake Memorial, aims to commemorate their lives in a way that fits their personalities, said Cherie Alyward, PAC president.

“We wanted an active memorial,” she said. “The two boys loved coming to school, they loved playing on the playground with their friends.”

Principal Patrick Young remembers the boys being outside a lot and always smiling and happy to be there.

The eldest boy often volunteered to help clean up around the playground, he added.

Alyward said the long-term goal is to build two playgrounds – one at Seaview and one on the reserve, but the focus is on the school playground for now to allow members of the Nanoose First Nation time to grieve and rebuild.

The Seaview playground needs to be replaced anyway, she added, because it is an old wooden structure, which to modern standards is considered unsafe.

“We’re also going to put in a memorial bench and some picnic tables,” said Alyward.

Parents believe it will cost about $50,000 to buy the equipment for Seaview – parents are willing to help install it – and another $30,000 for the second playground.

Alyward said the deaths have hit the school hard and parents think that this playground memorial will help students remember their friends in a positive way.

“We’ve had great counselling support in the school, but some kids are still very, very affected,” she said. “We’re going to involve the kids in choosing the playground.”

The fundraising has just begun because the group wanted to make sure the parents felt that this was an appropriate way to celebrate the lives of their sons, Alyward added.

So far, the group has reached out to Lantzville council and nearby businesses and the next step is to go outside Lantzville in search of grants and donations.

To donate, people can send cheques to Seaview addressed to School District 68, attention Cherie Alyward, or to find out more, please call her at 250-390-4801 or e-mail

Nanaimo News Bulletin