An impressive new play park that will be constructed in North River on June 8 will be named in honour of a Canadian soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
It was announced during a poignant ceremony at All Hallows Elementary this afternoon (Monday, May 13) that the facility will be called the Cpl. Jamie Brendan Murphy Play Park.
Murphy, a native of Conception Harbour, was killed during a suicide bomber attack on his vehicle on Jan. 27, 2004. He was the first Newfoundlander killed during the war in Afghanistan. Three other Canadian soldiers were injured in the attack.
Murphy, a member of the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was just 26 at the time.
Several members of Murphy's family attended the naming ceremony, including his mother, Alice Murphy, and his two sisters, Rosemary Ryan and Norma Murphy.
The Murphys later toured the site on which the new play park will be erected, and were overcome with a sense of pride and emotion.
"He would love it," Alice commented, her voice cracking with emotion. "This will be wonderful."
Three members of the Canadian Forces, including one soldier — Cpl. Steven Drake — from Murphy's regiment, along with two reservists with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment — Sgt. Lawrence Hicks of Bay Roberts and Master Cpl. Lori-Ann Hoyles of South River — were also in attendance. They were joined by Legion members from throughout the region.
Efforts to raise money for the play park have been ongoing for several months, and the naming ceremony was yet another milestone on the path to creating what supporters say will be a first-rate facility for children in the region.
Principal Kevin Giles said there was no hesitation when it came time to select a name. He said the play park will be a place for children to socialize and exercise in a safe, fun and respectful environment.
By naming it in memory of Cpl. Murphy, it will be carrying on a legacy of love, hope and justice for generations to come, Giles explained.
"That's what he stood for," said the principal. "And we carry those words on our backs every day.
"Jamie loved his community, his province and his family, and he wanted to make sure he could contribute the kinds of standards we take for granted … to other countries of the world. He wanted to create hope, and he gave his life for those beliefs.
"He made a tremendous sacrifice."
The ceremony was especially moving for Fr. Gerald Westcott, rector for the Anglican Parish of the Resurrection in South River.
Fr. Westcott was given the difficult task of informing the Murphy family about their son's death, and said it was an experience he will never forget.
Fr. Westcott's own son, Matthew Westcott, a reserve officer with the 37 Service Battalion, also served in Afghanistan. Fr. Westcott said he often thought of "Jamie" and the Murphy family while anxiously awaiting his son's return.
Fr. Westcott described Cpl. Murphy as a "brave and proud Canadian who gave his life so other children could have a chance at a better life."
Meanwhile, the play park will be constructed on the site of an existing playground, at the rear of All Hallows Elementary. The playground was condemned by the Eastern School District last year, and was reopened with a limited number of play structures last spring, following a determined effort by a group of parents and school staff.
Efforts to construct a new play park were bolstered several months ago when the project received a Helping Hand Award from Let Them Be Kids, an all volunteer, non-profit, community based organization that supports the building of playgrounds, skate parks and fitness park across Canada and beyond.
Since 2008, Let Them Be Kids has supported over 160 projects across Canada.
At All Hallows, every dollar raised for the purchase of play park equipment will be matched by Let Them Be Kids.
Up to last week, the local committee had raised $65,000, and was closing in on its $100,000 goal.
With a matching grant from Let Them Be Kids, a new $200,000 facility will be erected on June 8.
"This play park will be supported by love, wrapped in hope and built in recognition of the needs of this area," Principal Giles added.
Organizers will continue a fundraising blitz in the coming weeks, and anyone seeking more information can go online at the following: http://ahecpp.blogspot.ca