An opening ceremony held Thursday, Oct. 23 for the new Courtney and Skye Buck Memorial Playground at Raft River Elementary School was a mixture of joy and sadness – but mostly joy.
“This playground is a reflection of the two people we lost,” said Sabine Cooperman, president of the school’s parents advisory committee (PAC).
“Every time you’re on the playground and smile, it’s a reflection of what they lived for,” she told the students gathered for the ceremony.
There were some skeptics when it was first proposed that the school could finance the project through competing in Aviva Canada’s community fund contest.
However, the whole community came together, plus friends and supporters around the world, and the small town of Clearwater won the contest – bringing home $120,000 for the playground.
Cooperman singled out for special mention five people who helped bring the initiative together: Shelley Sim, Eleanor Collins, Samantha Braaten, Sylvain Menard and Kerry Milner Cairns.
The memorial playground is a tribute to the people of Clearwater, said Shelley Sim, who was acting mayor at the time.
“We had the courage to try,” she said.
“Skye and Courtney were perfect examples of what it means to grow up in a small community, to get enriching experiences through education and travel, and then return to where they grew up and give it back,” said vice-principal Lori Bradstock.
Courtney had been one of her students, she recalled, and she had been thrilled to have her join her as one of the teachers at the school.
Pointing to the new playground, she said the couple continue to give to Clearwater and the children of Raft River Elementary.
A special moment came when Bradstock presented the first Courtney Buck Memorial Sunshine Award to Juniper Wadlegger. The award goes to a student (or students) who positively influences others and is always considerate and cheerful.
Bradstock also presented the Justin Frye Memorial Award, which was named after a young relative of Courtney Buck who passed away several years ago.
The Justin Frye Award goes to a Grade 4 student who works hard in class and has good work habits, participates in school and sports activities. The recipient is kind and considerate of others, shows empathy and it demonstrates excellent citizenship. This year’s winner was Cassidy Tucker.
The third memorial award presented during the ceremony was named after former teacher Lori Pelton. This award goes to a grades 4-7 student who is hard working, diligent and puts forth effort in all areas, inside and outside of the classroom – a student who strives to do his or her very best. Brittney Wenzel took home the Lori Pelton Memorial Effort Award for this year.
Because the last school-year was cut short as a result of a labor dispute, a number of other awards were presented during the ceremony (the recipients, now in Grade 8 at Clearwater Secondary School, ran down the hill to take part):
Top Academic Grade 7 Student – Grayson Panko.
Top Grade 7 Athlete – Annika Wadlegger and Cedrik Menard.
Best Grade 7 Sportsmanship – Haliyah Arduini and John Meyer.
Grade 7 Fine Arts Award – Lea Labranche and Abby Ranson.
Grade 7 Citizenship Award – Sarah Schwaiger and Mitchell Chayer.
Grade 7 Service Award – Tiffany Schwaiger and Jenny Panko.
Below: Members of the Buck and Dekelver families take part in the opening ceremony of the new Courtney and Skye Buck Memorial Playground at Raft River Elementary on Oct. 23. Pictured are (back, l-r) Jim Biagioni, Rick Dekelver, Cathy Dekelver, (sign) Brent Buck, Tracy Buck, Eva Buck, Lyle Buck, Hettie Buck, (front, l-r) Rachel Biagioni, Katie Biagioni, Billy Biagioni, Natalia Biagioni, Bev Buck, and winner of the first Courtney Buck Memorial Sunshine award Juniper Wadlegger.