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Clearwater Secondary Students build memory boxes for grieving parents

Clearwater’s secondary school students created memory boxes to help parents who are grieving with the loss of a child.

Clearwater’s secondary school students created memory boxes to help parents who are grieving with the loss of a child.

Clearwater Secondary School woodworking teacher Dayton Fraser’s senior class took on the project after he was approached by a colleague who’s daughter, Keira Geiger, was a nurse working on a preceptorship in the obstetrical unit at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH).

The project would see the students build memory boxes and donate them to RIH and given to parents suffering from the grief of losing a child. These boxes contain keepsake items — such as photographs, clothing or hand and footprints — and are given to parents in the event of a stillbirth, miscarriage or other problem during or after childbirth.

Fraser eagerly accepted the project.

“It was a great project for our senior woodworking students,” he said. “It got them on every machine, from table saws to lasers for engraving, and it gave them insight into life circumstances.

“It’s such a tragedy to lose a child and these students were really motivated to build a beautiful keepsake that these parents would be able to cherish forever.”

The 15 senior students participated in the project, building memory boxes that were engraved with a butterfly and other artwork, including baby toys or teddy bears. Each box was also made with wood that was milled from the property of local retired doctor Dr. Bob Mackenzie.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when students weren’t in the classroom, CSS teachers Sylvain Menard and Fraser felled the trees along Dr. Mackenzie’s property, which is along the Trans Mountain pipeline right of way. The wood was then milled by Fraser and another CSS teacher, Bryn Leary, and retired teacher Brent Buck.

The project took longer than anticipated, and not every student completed their box, but Fraser said the project will continue when the school year returns. He said the project is also reflective of the philosophy he learned from his predecessor.

“We teach our kids skills and knowledge, but what is the point if we are not using those skills and knowledge to give back to our communities?” said Fraser.

In July, he called the obstetrics unit at RIH saying the first instalment of boxes were ready for delivery.

When he arrived at the new labour and delivery unit in the Phil and Jennie Gaglardi Tower at RIH, he was met enthusiastically by the labour and delivery team.

“It was such an amazing project for both the school and the obstetrical unit,” said Teressa Allwood, clinical operations manager of maternal and child services. “These memory boxes will support our families during the hardest times of their lives.

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