“We did something wrong, so now we’re fixing it,” said Western University student, Michaela Skarlicki.
The second-year medical science student was one of dozens of volunteers Thursday afternoon, who showed up to repair damage to the property of the “Broughdale Grandma,” caused by an unsanctioned fake homecoming street party over the weekend.
At 87-years-old, Bess Srahulek has lived in the post-war home since 1960. The garden was planted by her late husband, John.
“I’m thrilled to pieces,” Srahulek told AM980.
From inside her home, Srahulek watched as bags of mulch, shovelfuls of river stone, and brand new plants were unloaded from a pair of landscaping trucks.
A GoFundMe page to mobilize volunteers and raise money to cover supplies has raised nearly $2,000 so far. Its author, Maya Bielecki, had shown up at Srahulek’s front door, offered to help, and worked with Srahulek on a design for the new front yard.
“She said that she was going to get some flowers. She was interested in flowers, and I guess she must have started some kind of a fund, and people have reacted nicely,” laughed Srahulek.
Her property teemed with activity throughout the afternoon, as volunteers were directed to create a circular rock pattern, dig holes for new plants, and put up a new arbour to replace one that had been knocked down and damaged. But it offered a stark contrast the activity this past weekend.
Srahulek’s fence was torn down, students used her backyard as a bathroom, a window was broken, and the rock garden her husband built was destroyed.
“I’m disappointed that it happens. And you’re hurt by the fact that it’s happened. And you’re angry that it’s happened. And you’re trying to think, well not everyone does this,” Srahulek said.
Ever since her husband died ten years ago, Sraluhek said she’d leave the house to visit friends in nearby communities during homecoming festivities. But this year, she thought things would be different.
“We got the letter from the President [Amit Chakma], and I thought that they would listen, because he was asking them not to do it. So I was hopeful.”
Tobi Solebo, the President of Western’s University Student’s Council, said the culture around homecoming needs to change, and he’d like to see more focus on students becoming community partners in London.
But he was pleased to learn about the initiative to replace Srahulek’s garden.
“It’s nice to see something grassroots, it’s nice for students to start something to show people that they care about these types of things,” he said.
“It shows we take our responsibility has Londoners seriously. I think it’s very easy for people to dismiss Western students as Londoners, but even if we’re just here for four years or maybe five years, it’s still our home.”
London Police laid more than 60 charges and issued nearly 1,000 warnings during Saturday’s ‘FOCO’ event. Meanwhile, 37 people were taken to hospital.
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