Skatepark opens in memory of Rockland teen killed by lightning
Published Tuesday, May 26, 2015 4:53PM EDT
Building a field of dreams in their son's memory.
Three years ago today, a bolt of lightning struck and killed a young man at a park in Ottawa.
Joel Gauthier’s death appeared to have killed his dream to build a skateboard park in the city of Clarence-Rockland, where he lived, just east of Ottawa. That is, until his parents decided to keep that dream alive.
Like the skatepark, life took an unusual turn for the Gauthier family on this very day in 2012.
18 year old Joel Gauthier, a mountain bike enthusiast, wanted to introduce his new girlfriend to the sport he loved. They were riding in Vincent Massey Park in Ottawa on May 26 when a storm suddenly blew in.
His parents Pierre and Lynne Gauthier recall the events leading up to it.
‘Joel and Marie-Laurence stopped to put on rain gear,’ says Pierre, ‘and the next thing she knew she was waking up from being unconscious and realized they had been struck by lightning.’
‘His heart was badly affected,’ says Lynne, ‘and there was nothing they could do for him. And today is the third anniversary of his passing.’
Lynne and Pierre stand at the top of one of the ramps as they look over the entire park.
‘How amazing it looks,’ says Lynne.
‘The field of dreams,’ adds Pierre.
It was Joel's dream to see a skateboard park in his home town, somewhere for teens like him to hang out, teens like Nikolas Blenkiron, who knew Joel and worked on the committee to make the park happen.
‘He would be here if he was still be here,’ says Blenkiron, with his skateboard tucked under his arm, ‘helping people learn new stuff like he used to do with us.’
This park was Joel's dream. For his grieving parents, though, it was therapy. For three years, they tirelessly raised funds to make it happen.
‘For us, it’s really a legacy project,’ says Pierre.
They got Clarence-Rockland council on board, got advice from kids on how to build it. Three years and $300-thousand dollars later, the Planchodrome Joel Gauthier Skatepark was finished.
‘It’s our gift to our son,’ says Lynne, ‘to have been able to accomplish his biggest dream to provide an area for kids of our city to be able to enjoy.’
The Joel Gauthier Skatepark official opens June 5th. Joel would have turned 22 that day.