MONTAGUE, P.E.I. - Eighteen-year-old Brodie McCarthy was supposed to graduate from Montague Regional High School on Thursday evening.
He had a plan for his future. He wanted to attend Holland College’s sport and leisure management program. He wanted to become a physiotherapist.
However, McCarthy died May 13 following what Montague Regional High School principal Seana Evans-Renaud described as a “freak accident”.
McCarthy was playing in the David Voye Memorial rugby tournament in Summerside when he suffered a head injury during the game. He was taken to Prince County Hospital in Summerside before being transferred to Moncton for surgery. He later died in hospital.
Now, Montague Regional High School is taking steps to ensure McCarthy is part of its year-end celebrations every year.
At the school’s 2018 graduation ceremony, Jacob MacEachern was awarded the first Brodie McCarthy Memorial Leadership Scholarship.
MacEachern wiped tears from his eyes with a tissue before walking across the stage at the Cavendish Wellness Centre to a standing ovation. He hugged McCarthy’s mother and father tight, accepting the scholarship graciously. The McCarthy family and MacEachern held onto their emotions to pose for pictures in front of an entire community on their feet.
The scholarship in McCarthy’s name will be granted annually to a Montague Regional High School student who combines leadership, community involvement, academics and athletics and will be attending a post-secondary institution.
McCarthy was a major part of his high school’s celebration.
Principal Evans-Renaud discussed the loss the school and community suffered.
“Though tonight is a night of celebration, it is also a night to reflect. In May we lost a cherished student, Brodie McCarthy.”
Evans-Renaud also acknowledged another loss of a recent Montague High School graduate. Justin MacKay was one of two victims in an accident where two boats collided in the water near Murray Harbour June 9.
Either of these young men may have been a friend or family member, Evans-Renaud said, adding she wasn’t sure the pain would ever go away.
“With this loss, we have also lost a small part of ourselves that can never be replaced, but we stand here together as a community, as a school, as Vikings.”
The loss of McCarthy taught Evans-Renaud something about Viking spirit. She said her school is full of fighters.
“It will be difficult, and each day we will fight a little bit harder to get back to where we need to be, and we need to be here tonight, together to remember and to celebrate.”
During the graduation, 146 graduating certificates were handed out to 145 students.
Justin McCarthy received two of them as he proudly stepped across the stage to accept his twin brother’s certificate.
Justin played on the same rugby team as Brodie and accompanied him to Prince County Hospital before he was transferred to Moncton.
Justin honoured his brother, smiling and shaking hands with his high school principal. As he walked off the stage the entire crowd stood and clapped. There were very few dry eyes in the room.
Valedictorian Jessica Perry from Georgetown was among the classmates in the crowd. She thought her speech was going to be light-hearted, but the mood shifted after McCarthy’s death. It was something she had to address.
“After our loss, I felt closer to the graduating class than ever,” Perry said sitting in the now nearly empty wellness centre as most of her classmates flooded out of the high school.
Perry made sure it was something McCarthy’s parents and family would approve of.
“I met with my principal and told her what I had planned. Then she made sure it was OK with Brodie’s parents.”
Perry’s mother cried, her eyes becoming swollen and red. She was proud of her daughter and the way she addressed McCarthy’s death in her valedictorian speech.
As part of her speech, Perry read a letter to McCarthy from the graduating class.
“I wrote this letter on behalf of the graduating class,” Perry said.
She wrote it, so the class would not only feel closer to McCarthy but to each other.
“Dear Brodie, today is the day you graduate, and we could not miss you more. You were taken from us too soon. Everyone is doing alright. We wish you could be here with us all ready to take on the world together. As sad as your loss was Brodie, it brought us all together.”
As the group moves forward, McCarthy will always be part of the journey, Perry said.
“You will never be left behind or forgotten, you will come with us,” she told her classmates. “We will hold you in our hearts forever . . . .
“This night is for us. This night is for you Brodie. Although you aren’t here physically this is just as much your graduation as ours. We are going to be OK.”