Winnipeg students celebrate first responders

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Winnipeg students celebrate first responders
A group of local students stepped up together to deliver a big message to first responders - and a direct gift to one family. Drew Stremick reports. – Jun 13, 2024

Students at Meadows West School showed just how much they appreciate the hard work and dedication of each and every first responder working in Winnipeg on Thursday.

The class went all out, researching statistics relating to first responders, crafting dioramas, and even making individual posters and mixtapes for members to bring back to their stations.

More than a dozen first responders from across the city attended the open house, being treated like rock stars as they chatted with the students, signing autographs on white shirts and hats the kids had on.

Dave Leochko a Grade 5 teacher at the school, explained how the goal of supporting and showing first responders how much they mean to the community and his students started small, sending cards to those working around the holidays and asking Fire and Paramedic Chief Christian Schmidt if they could take it to the next level.

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“I contacted Christian saying, ‘Hey, how do you feel, let’s go all out on this.’,” Leochko said. “He said, ‘I will support you in any way you want,’ so that’s how it all started and it just grew from those moments on.”

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The sentiment from the students was touching according to Chief Schmidt who said the recognition means the world to his members.

“Our folks see difficult things out in the community,” said Schmidt. “It’s a tough job, and to see this appreciation being expressed from the youth, the leaders of tomorrow… I think I said there’s future leaders in this room here today, future first responders and it’s just fantastic.”

First responders and their mental health has been front and centre in recent months after the passing of Winnipeg firefighter Preston Heinbigner, who died by suicide in the line of duty back in April.

The students at Meadows West recognized the pain associated with that loss by donating $675 to his family.

MLA and former Winnipeg firefighter David Pankratz says the work done by the students was fantastic and was moved by the kindness of the students’ gesture.

“Unfortunately it intersected with this really tragic moment for the Fire Department when Preston passed away,” Pankratz said. “They’ve done this work in the community to raise money for the family, it was just absolutely touching to see.”

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Their gesture comes a day after the United Firefighters of Winnipeg say a claim submitted on Heinbigners behalf to the Workers Compensation Board was accepted.

That news, according to union president Tom Bilous, is a silver lining after a tough past few months.

“After a couple bad months, tough months,” said Bilous, “the takeaway here is there’s hope for the future, and hopefully better days ahead, and more resources ahead for everybody.”

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