Original Published on Sep 26, 2022 at 10:31
By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A whole lot of love, respect and need to honour the lost children and survivors of Indian Residential Schools is what prompted Peace River, Alberta women Candace Do- bransky and Judy Ducharme to create a fundraiser in their memories.
Their initiative included using Du- charme’s crosswalk design in downtown Peace River to create shirts and tumblers to raise money to donate, in honour of the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“The shirts are inspired by Judy’s crosswalk in Peace River and the handprint on the back (of the shirts) is my son’s,” says Dobransky.
“That sweet boy will be the one to mourn and pray with the Indigenous peoples because I know he feels the loss in his little heart. I’m so honoured to be able to do this with my friend and my little man,” she adds.
Dobransky is the owner of 4 Arrow Design. She makes shirts, tumblers, coffee mugs, blankets, pillows, ornaments, magnets, and anything in-between.
“I’m incredibly passionate about helping people and giving back to the community,” says Dobransky. “The Indigenous culture has me in awe. The more I learned about residential schools, the more I became passionate about raising my voice and helping where I can.”
Dobransky says her son, Kayson, inspired her to start the fundraising campaign. She says when the first children were found in mass graves and a ceremony was held in Peace River, she chose to take her children so they would know what happened and understand the story.
“Kayson is incredibly intuitive and without giving him a reason, he watched and listened to everyone speak and wept,” says Dobransky.
“He then took his little orange teddy, set it down and said, ‘I’m sorry’.”
Dobransky approached Ducharme to team up. She said they started out with a goal to donate 15 per cent, not knowing what the magnitude of what they could accomplish. They have now committed to donating 30 per cent of the profits to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society of Canada.
Ducharme is daughter to a residential school survivor. She has painted two crosswalks, one in Peace River and one in Whitecourt, Albert, to raise awareness about what Indigenous people have gone through in history. She wanted to use her art to express her respect for her dad, her uncle, the survivors, and the children who lost their lives. She says what people experienced at residential schools ripples deep, noting that there are intergenerational affects from their experiences.
“I didn’t grow up with a normal childhood, my dad was like many other survivors who mask their pain through other means, such as alcohol. We didn’t find out until we were adults what he went through,” says Ducharme.
“The ripple effect runs deep in my family.” Ducharme says she is passionate about helping others and wants to help people be able to find outlets to learn to heal after painful past experiences.
“If there are any contributions I can make, not matter how big or small, that is my goal,” says Ducharme. “My children and now my grandchildren are symbols of strength and resilience that they get from me, passed on from my father.”
The women anticipate their fundraiser has generated more than $1,000 to donate to the cause, but they will not know for sure until sales stop on Sept. 30.
Ducharme says people can support causes in the region just by providing non-judgmental empathy and keep the love going. She says the more the story is shared, the lower the risk of the horrible history repeating.
“I do this for the children that didn’t make it home, and the children that did and have to survive in all of this,” says Ducharme.
“I will continue to do my part and having family like Candace in my circle help me live in the light and stay away from the darkness. There are no real words to express my gratitude.”
If you are interested in purchasing tumblers, please contact Dobransky at (780) 932-6154 or Ducharme at (780) 618-6826.