by Lucie Roy
Morinvile News Correspondent
Rebecca Balanko and Ben Holland made a donation to Morinville Public School as a tribute to their father. It is a buddy bench which serves as a blessing and benefit for all students.
The bench was officially brought outside during recess on Thursday morning to be used for the first time. The plaque on the bench reads “Forever and Always, In Loving Memory of Tom Holland Our Dad, Grandpa and Friend.”
Organizers for the bench project included Meagan Kuik and School Councillor Cindy VanderVaate who run the GLOW Club together. The GLOW is an acronym for Gay Lesbian or Whatever.
MPS Grade 2 teacher Meagan Kuik said the GLOW club students painted the bench in rainbow colours, which is why it was unveiled during Pride Week. Next year they hope to acquire a second bench. Kuik said the bench would be brought outside for every recess year round by the Junior High students who are the spokespersons for the purpose behind the bench. Kuik said, in theory, it gives a kid a place to sit if they have no one to play with or when they want someone to notice them and play with.
In an Instagram statement Balanko said, “My Dad lives on in a small piece of some students Childhood. I’m honoured to have this beautiful bench stand for acceptance and allow those feeling alone to have a buddy. We are never alone when we have friends. My Dad loved kids, their laughter and their smiles. This seems fitting for his legacy. I miss you Dad every single day. I’m proud to be your daughter.”
Balanko said her father Tom Holland passed away this past October. He lived in the lovely red brick building next to MPS. His funeral was held at Higher Grounds and he made an impression on those who knew and loved him. He passed at the young age of 65 but was happiest in our town.
“My brother and I felt a tribute allowing others to feel valued and important would be a positive statement,” Balanko said.
“My Dad loved kids, their laughter, their stories and smiles. He is a Grandfather of four children. Three of them have been at MPS (Vanier for 2). Knowing the history of the buddy bench, it felt like a strong statement of acceptance for all who need a friend. My Dad’s ashes will be brought “home” this summer to Ontario, but he loved our town, the people, the shops and neighbours. As we’ve (my family) planted roots in this community, we wanted a small memorial landmark for others to share. His life is worth remembering. We should all feel as though we belong somewhere and we are accepted by our peers. Lastly, our loved ones are never really gone until they’re forgotten, and now a lot of people now know who he is and he would’ve loved sharing a conversation on this bench.”