The potential of youth.
That’s what graduation ceremonies are all about at Lloydminster high schools Wednesday.
No one will know for certain what the future might have held for Holy Rosary High School student Drew MacEachern, but if he were alive to deliver the valedictorian speech, he might say the sky’s the limit.
“He had the most outgoing personality, he was amazing, he would talk with anyone,” his mother, Melanie, told the Source about her only son.
“If he wasn’t going to be an electrician or an engineer, which I think was his way of going, I’m sure he would have been a lawyer or a politician.”
Drew will be at the ceremony in spirit to help others breeze through their big day with his favourite saying, “I’ve got this,” written on the invitation cover for this year’s graduation ceremony.
Drew died tragically on Sept. 30, 2014 at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton at the age of 16, a month after being critically injured in a two car collision in Lloydminster.
The Grade 10 graduate was a backseat passenger and was ejected from the rear window when the car he was riding in was T-boned.
His seatbelt didn’t work, and he was thrown from the vehicle, that was being driven by a young female.
Drew suffered a life-threatening brain injury from which he couldn’t recover at the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Drew’s dad, Rick, knows he and his wife, and their daughter Ally, won’t see Drew graduate, but they want his former classmates and friends to make smart choices so they stay safe and sound.
“The message I would like to give teens who are graduating is just to think and plan ahead, plan your rides,” said Rick, referring to upcoming grad nights.
He asks teens to plan how they’re getting home, what they’re doing for the day and how the night is going to end and to not make any rash decisions.
“Sometimes you may not think you’re drinking very much—bad things can happen and bad things do happen,” he said.
Alcohol and poor driving decisions may have contributed to the collision that also killed one of Drew’s female friends from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School in the same car that left him and three others injured.
The tragedy also left many families and friends to mourn.
“It’s hard on kids,” said Melanie, who said Drew and his friend from LCHS who was a passenger in the front seat were outgoing kids.
“They were both involved in sports and they have a good friends who are suffering and I feel for those kids.”
Six other area teens also died in a vehicle mishap underneath an overturned semi in water near Lloydminster in the summer of 2013.
In fact, numbers from SGI for 2013—the latest statistics available— show the highest number of drinking drivers are between the ages of 16 and 24.
There is no indication those numbers are dropping.
In Lloydminster, teens have had their share of losing friends in similar, tragic circumstances.
“This group of teens has seen a lot tragedy because they’ve known all these kids that have been killed in the last several years, so they’re aware of all this stuff that happens,” said Rick.
“I just want to remind them again to get through grad and have it a safe grad so everyone goes on to wherever they’re going, as opposed to the alternative.”
He said there is no need to get into a vehicle and get a ride home with someone who’s been drinking.
The impact of Drew’s death has been devastating to the MacEacherns, especially this when he should have been with his graduating class.
“It was something we looked forward to since the day he was born,” said Melanie.
She said Drew’s death left a void that nothing can fix.
“As a parent you want to prevent anything from happening to your child,” she said.
“We want parents to make sure they’re talking with their kids and remind them they are kids—before they go out door to call if they need a drive.”
Rick said his son would probably be alive today if his seatbelt worked and he had put it on.
If this could be true, his son might be carrying on to be an businessman or a pilot, among his endless possibilities.
“At 14, he had an idea for an application on his iPhone for shopping,” said Rick, with his voice full of pride.
He was working with a programmer to develop the app.
“He started building a web page and I never knew he was doing this—I found out after he died.
“I was looking through his computer and he was building a web page to sell clothing and to distribute skateboard clothing and shoes and stuff like that.”
What you see, said Rick, is the initiative to try and do that at 14.
“He actually had a site set up and I actually bought something for $10 on Paypal,” said Rick with a smile.
Drew was trying to collect money for Parkinson’s disease, since his grandfather suffered from it.
The MacEacherns have set up two bursaries in honour of Drew’s name, including one for the 186 Air Cadets, Lloydminster Squadron, that the young man belonged to, and used to sate his passion for aviation and rifles.
In fact, he was top cadet of the year in his first year, and the only one in his squadron chosen to go to Gimli Man. in 2013 for a basic aviation course.
The second bursary is for a Raiders high school football team players, just like Drew aspired to be at the start of Grade 11.
His parents saw his only football game on Aug. 28, two days before the crash that ended his life.
Funds initially raised for Drew in the hope he would recover have been transferred into a memorial fund to help others.
“I couldn’t say enough about it then and I couldn’t say enough about it now, but the support in this community has been absolutely amazing,” said Rick.
After Drew passed away, the MacEacherns decided to use the money for bursaries.
“I wanted to give that back to the community to where it came from —we give it back to families who need the support.” said Melanie.
Not one more tragic death
June 23, 2016 12:00 AM
Rick MacEachern holds a picture of his son, Drew, who was tragically killed two years ago. Drew would have graduated high school with his friends next week.
Grieving parents come forward in appeal to grads
The potential of youth.
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