Black teenager launches racial justice project in Nova Scotia
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Our arts and entertainment picks
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 28, 2020
Anniversary of the search marked with 5k memorial run Saturday
Ten years has passed since the tragic death of a little boy living with autism, but the imprint he made on hearts across the world has never faded.
“I’ve been through Swiss Air and I’ve seen things you’d never want to see. This is the one that bothered me the most,” said Paul Vienneau, manager of the Cape Breton Search and Rescue. “It bothered a few of us the most.”
Today marks the 10th anniversary that James Delorey, 7, of South Bar was found, after spending two days enduring cold temperatures and a significant snowfall lost in the woods. On Dec. 5, 2009, Delorey wondered away from his home and into the woods and the family’s dog Chance followed him.
A significant snowfall the next morning sparked one of the largest search efforts in the history of the province that had searchers coming from everywhere frantically hoping to find the little boy. On Dec. 7, Chance returned home and following his tracks, searchers found James curled up under a tree and a huge impression where Chance had stayed for two days, keeping James warm.
Tragically, James would later succumb to the injuries sustained during his time lost in the elements.
Vienneau said their searches in Cape Breton have included as few as eight a year and as many as 24.
“Each one is very important,” Vienneau said. “Every one of them is.”
“I’ve been through Swiss Air and I’ve seen things you’d never want to see. This is the one that bothered me the most." ~ Paul Vienneau
However, he said the Delorey one was tough and still is.
The day after Delorey’s death, editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon featured an emotional cartoon of a snow angel and Chance looking down at it. Around the first anniversary of Delorey’s death the AGM for search and rescue across the province was held. Vienneau said during the event, CBSR was presented with a framed copy of the drawing.
Later that year, Nova Scotia Search and Rescue met Vienneau and he was asked to speak about the search.
“After I was done I was told I needed to go and get help,” he said. “A few people told me that.”
One day Vienneau said two young fellows who had taken part in the search were in talking to him, he was trying to console them. Later on one day he happened to look up at the editorial drawing and said, “I’m getting that tattooed.’
“Then the three of us went and got it done.”
In Jan. 2014, sadly Chance died. Editorial cartoonist Sean Casey featured a cartoon in the Cape Breton Post of a silhouette of James running and Chance running beside him looking up at him with the caption, ‘Together again.’
In March 2019, Vienneau got that tattoo on the same arm.
“That gave me a lot of closure,” he said. “That’s what consoles me.”
Vienneau said what this tragedy has done since was bring autism and search and rescue to the forefront.
“Unfortunately James had to pass away to do it.”
An annual 5K walk/run in memory of Delorey is being held Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. at Whitney Pier Memorial Middle School. Registration is 1-1:45 p.m.
“He was found 10 years ago, it lands on the same day this year,” said Nick Burke, organizer of the event. Burke said its symbolic where the run lands on the same day as Christmas Daddies, as a reminder Christmas Daddies was going on the same time as the search.
“It’s going to be a tough day.”
"I know it’s cold and we don’t know what the weather’s going to be this time of year, but I think it’s a gentle reminder of what James went through." ~ Veronica Fraser
Burke, a member of the New Victoria Volunteer Fire Department at the time, took part in the search. Burke said the outcome was hard on everyone, where the idea of the memorial walk/run evolved.
“It was felt it was important to have a way to remember him and his parents supported it.”
Veronica Fraser, James’s mother, said she knows walks aren’t normally held this time of year and she kind of questioned it at first, too.
“I know it’s cold and we don’t know what the weather’s going to be this time of year, but I think it’s a gentle reminder of what James went through only we can layer up, we can put on a coat. That’s a big part of it, to share a bit of what he went through, not that it comes close.”
The funds raised will go to Cape Breton Search and Rescue, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
“James has helped raise almost $20,000 so far,” she said. “We’re hoping this year on the tenth anniversary, it will be the biggest one yet.”
Over the years the funds have gone to different causes, including the SPCA, boys and girls club and Project Lifesaver, a Cape Breton Search and Rescue initiative that gives tracking bracelets to people who might tend to wander. Fraser said this project is close to her heart, the tracking is better than GPS, has been tested in conditions worse than what her son had endured.
Anyone in danger of wondering needs to be protected, she said.
“This equipment can find them and bring them home. That’s James legacy to help those people who are unknowingly at risk of wandering.”
Fraser said a little girl on the mainland got this bracelet because of James. Two weeks later she went missing in a heavier wooded area than her son had endured, and she was found under half an hour.
“He saved her life right there.”
However, project lifesaver does have funds right now so Fraser said she wants to help Search and Rescue. It’s important the team has whatever equipment is necessary to help them with their searches.
In memory of Chance, Fraser said people are also welcome to bring their dogs to the walk/run on Saturday.