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Memorial scholarship pays tribute to Islander who went missing 25 years ago


Janet O’Brien thought the goal might be a bit ambitious.

Would Islanders – and others – possibly ante up $10,000 for a scholarship that would be a lasting tribute to her son, Steven?

She was, she says, a little nervous at the prospect.

No need to fret, as it turns out.

Islanders have been quick to donate. More than $14,000 has been raised for the memorial scholarship in just the first 10 days since the creation of an online GoFundMe campaign.

Islanders, it is clear, are moved.

Sure, no one can truly appreciate the quarter-century of anguish, hurt and loss Janet and her husband, Charlie, have endured since their boy’s disappearance.

Islanders, though, are still moved.

They do not need to be able to feel the true depth of the couple’s pain – how could they really, after all – to feel deeply and compassionately towards Janet and Charlie for the unthinkable pain that has come to the long-time Iona residents with losing a child so suddenly and so inexplicably, so very long ago.

Janet has been touched with the level of generosity pouring forth to fuel a memorial scholarship in the name of Steven O’Brien, who disappeared on March 20, 1993, from the lives of so many loved ones, including Steven’s three siblings and Steven’s then girlfriend.

Steven was just two months shy of his 19th birthday and a first-year student at Holland College’s Culinary Institute in Charlottetown when he went missing after a night out with friends. He was seen at the former nightclub called Myron’s and he was last seen on Queen Street alone.

He was never seen again.

The void has been immense for the O’Briens. That monumental sense of loss has been daily.

One might think Steven’s birthdate of May 14, 1974, and the March 20 date of his disappearance deliver quite a sting to his parents when each of those two days roll around each year.

One would be right, of course.

But it certainly is not just those days that are filled with unanswered questions and heavy emotion. No, that nasty harshness, Janet is quick to point out, exists daily.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I and Charlie don’t think of him, and our children are the same,’’ she says.

“One day is no different than the other.’’

RELATED: Charlottetown police continue 22 year search for Steven O’Brien

Janet says dealing with Steven’s disappearance for 25 years has been “a huge struggle.’’

She chose not to share how family has tried to cope all those years or what they do to remember and to celebrate the nearly 19 years they had him. It’s simply too personal, she notes.

However, friends and family felt creating a memorial scholarship to support future students of Holland College’s Culinary Arts program would be a fitting way to honour Steven’s life and passions on the 25th anniversary of his disappearance.

“We wanted to keep Steven’s memory out there,’’ says Janet.

“It’s been difficult all these years. You have to really bring it up in the public eye to show that we are still thinking of Steven.’’

Again, Islanders are moved.

Thousands of dollars have been donated in under two weeks. Thoughtful comments are also flowing in. They are hitting the mark.

“There are caring people out there – and it shows that they care about Steven and want to show their support for us,’’ says Janet.

How to help

Jim.Day@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter - GuardianJimDay

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