Its not often that you really think of a school as a family but in so many ways, my son’s school was just that–part of our family. It all started back in 1998. My oldest son’s aunt desperately wanted me to enroll him in a French as a first language school. I was a little skeptical to say the least. I am as English as they come. My French is limited to high school and knowing how to conjugate the verb etre. I wished I had learned more but my own insecurities kept me from going any further.
I called up the school and was worried because rumors were abound that the school would be closing. My call was answered by the principal and my concerns were quickly put to rest. My son completed their preschool program and as we headed into kindergarten, I again had questions. I am an English speaking girl as I said. My children’s father comes from a French background as did most of the community we were living in but what if my kids decided that they wanted to go to English post-secondary schools? Would they be able to function? Again my concerns were alleviated and I was shown that the “French” students often performed better than their English counterparts in English programming.
I began to feel that I had opened doors for my children and not closed them and so I began to relax. I got to know more of the staff through a variety of activities and soon was involved with helping out in a variety of ways. Just as I was relaxing, a blow hit our family–my youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and given twelve hours to live. The school had been worried about him earlier. He had looked pale when we had gone to various events throughout the late fall and early winter. They were there with support and kind words when we returned from the hospital with our new pal “diabetes” in tow.
As my youngest son grew, he too went to this school. They worked to ensure that he fit in. They supported me as we fought for accommodations and help to make the lives of the staff and my son easier and safer. When my youngest was in kindergarten, we asked some of the staff to support us in a walk we were doing as a family for the Canadian Diabetes Association. They generously opened their wallets to us. The next year however things were very different. This time they refused to support us. They wanted to do their own walk! Would I arrange it?
Well as you know, the Ecole Notre Du Cap Diabetes Walk became an annual event. I quickly labelled them “the little school with the big heart”. A student body that was never more than 50 students each year raised well over $1000. By 2010, with the $2214 they had raised in June, this little school with the incredible heart has raised close to $20,000. The thought of their generosity and how it sustained year after year despite the changing of students and some staff still brings tears to my eyes.
This year I once again watched students show up on walk day donning t-shirts that they had been given years before. They were showing their support. It wasn’t about raising enough to get a t-shirt or whatever other trinkets companies like Medtronic and Stutt’s Pharmacy provided. It was walking for my son, for their grandparent, for a loved one, for people with diabetes in their area. I was honored to roll their coins and total their pledge sheets. I was proud to hand them their prizes and their “Thank you” certificates from the Diabetes Hope Foundation. It was my pleasure to send on the cheque with this year’s donation.
This was a walk done by friends. No–it was a walk done by family. As the school year came to a close, so did our time at Ecole Notre Dame du Cap. We moved out of the community that my children had called home all of their lives. We are lucky to still be in an area where my son can continue in the same French as a first language program but leaving our family behind has been hard. We will see them again as they come to our new area and we return to theirs. No matter what the distance between us, they will always be with us. As I have read many times and have learned over the past few months more and more, some friends come into your life for a little while and fill a purpose but some friends come into your life and forever leave a print on your heart. Ecole Notre Dame du Cap, its staff and its students have definitely left a print on our heart. They have shown us generosity, kindness, and love while providing my children with a wonderful and well rounded education.