By WES KELLER Freelance Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
For their creation of a war memorial based on a Group of Seven A.J. Casson scroll, four Shelburne students are to receive the Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage award for Youth Achievement.
The award, to be presented in February under the Ontario Heritage Trust's Young Heritage Leaders program, “provides communities with the opportunity to celebrate young people who have taken leadership roles in preserving, protecting and promoting the province's rich and diverse heritage (and) recognizes the most exceptional groups of young heritage volunteers,” according to the announcement recently sent to Mayor Ed Crewson, whose council had nominated the students.
The students -- Alissa D, Alexandra B, Corah- Lynn H and Sarah C – weren’t expecting to win any medals when, horrified while in Grade 10 that a memorial scroll at Centre Dufferin District High School, drafted by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson, was virtually hidden from view, they decided to do something about it.
They had the support of teacher Neil Orford but it would still be a daunting task to raise the $5,000 or so it was going to cost to have the memorial literally cast in stone, as the scroll itself was too precious to be placed on public display.
Nonetheless, on Remembrance Day 2009, they told this newspaper they would be unveiling such a memorial as a rededication prior to Remembrance Day 2010.
At the time of their announcement, Sarah C might have explained their sense of urgency when she asked how young people were supposed to remember, “when we weren’t here at the time.”
Today, having recently returned from a tour of European battlefields, Sarah is compiling a written account of her observations lest she should ever forget what the invading Allied soldiers faced in their fight to liberate Europe and to preserve the freedoms that so many of us take for granted now.
Recalling her quote from two years ago, she emailed: “While it is true that we were not around at the time of the wars and probably could never imagine the horrors that took place during those times, it does not mean that we shouldn't learn about these events and honour the people who truly gave it all.
“They sacrificed so that we -- the future - - could live in such luxury where war is not a part of our daily lives here in Canada.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to history and I firmly believe that history is not made by the few but, rather, by the many.
“That is why it is so necessary for us to learn about the many people who lived and -- whether they were conscious of the significance of their actions at the time – contributed,” Sarah said.
Corah said she finds it “exceedingly heart-warming and humbling that others care about what we did.” She said they never expected any kind of recognition. “It was just something that had to be done, and we accepted the challenge (but it was) achieved only through the collaboration of our teacher, Mr. Neil Orford, and the community.”
Alexandra said the “recognition is such an honour and a wonderful surprise. These past few years have been great, our school, local community and of course Mr. Neil Orford have come together to help build such a wonderful War Memorial. To see the students and staff at CDDHS and our local community come together to help support this War Memorial was very special. This award is a great honour,” she said.
Alissa says she was excited about receiving the award, but also about “such a great opportunity and an honour to represent our area and the importance of our local history in downtown Toronto this coming February.”