'It's a slap in the face': families deal with vandalism at memorial site
SUDBURY -- A memorial site on Centennial Drive in Hanmer currently holds three crosses, flowers and solar lights - a memorial to three young teenagers who lost their lives due to a drunk driver in 2009.
However, family members who remain devastated with the unexplainable loss of their children, are dealing with continued vandalism to the cherished site as well.
"Last year they took out half of the flowers, they broke all the lights and they damaged the cross," said Jocelyne Philippe, mom to Steven Philippe who was only 16 when he died.
"This year, well, they took all the tops of the lights."
The family went to the site near the end of July and found that all of the tops of the solar lights had been removed, an act that they are calling "senseless."
"It's like a slap in the face," said Steven's sister Melissa Woodrow.
"We don't have a grave site for my brother, so this is more like a place for us to come. Like my dad has said, he feels closer to my brother when he's here. My brother has also walked here and he comes here to talk to him kind of thing. So for us, it means a lot and for someone to damage it, it's senseless."
Woodrow adds, "It's almost like you might as well just go to a cemetery and destroy stuff. It's a memorial site. I don't see the joys in damaging something that is there to honour the three kids."
Woodrow posted on social media after the solar lights were tampered with this year trying to raise community awareness.
That post generated a lot of traction on social media with many giving their condolences and suggestions on how to stop vandalism in the future.
"We're not from here, so to get the community support not knowing everyone, it's just amazing everyone coming together," she said.
"The amount of people that wanted to help, the manager of RONA, she donated some solar lights to us and it was so much appreciated."
However, the families aren't looking for money, just ways to keep this site respected.
"I would love somebody who sees that to stop and maybe take a picture," said Philippe.
"Or I don't know, call the cops and try to stop that. We know it's after 9 o'clock. It's when it's dark. So maybe we're going to put a camera, we have to ask the city for that, so we'll see what's going to happen."
Philippe says the memorial site is visited almost daily and it holds a special place for the families who are still coping with the loss.
"It's important that it stays here forever," she says.