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11-year-old Calgary girl organizes No Stone Left Alone expansion for 5,000 veteran headstones

Calgary girl organizes No Stone Left Alone expansion for 5,000 veteran headstones
An 11-year-old girl is behind a No Stone Left Alone ceremony honouring more than 5,000 servicemen and women at a cemetery in Calgary.‚Äč

An 11-year-old girl is behind a No Stone Left Alone ceremony honouring more than 5,000 servicemen and women at a cemetery in Calgary.

Molly Kavanagh organized the special ceremony this year after hearing about it on the radio last year.

The Grade 6 student said the story struck a chord with her, and she knew immediately she had to bring it to her school.

Since its inception in 2011, No Stone Left Alone is held in more than 100 remembrance ceremonies across Canada. Its mission is to honour the sacrifices and service of Canada’s military by educating students and placing poppies on the headstones of veterans every November.

“I think it will be a very respectful way to tell them we’re grateful and showing them we care,” Molly said.

READ MORE: More Canadians plan to mark Remembrance Day this year, poll finds

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Molly enlisted the help of her two friends, Rachel Profeta and Madison Mitchell, and spent the year researching the program and preparing the poppies.

The girls had to remove more than 5,000 pins from the poppies to make it safe to handle for younger kids.

According to Molly’s mother, they originally believed there were only a few hundred graves in Queen’s Park Cemetery, but it turns out there are more than 5,000 veterans buried there.

“This is a great opportunity for them to have a hands-on experience, to have an authentic experience… to read and touch the gravestones of a fallen veteran or somebody who trained in the military and sacrificed their life. It makes it real [for the students],” Deirdre Kavanagh said.

“I’m excited for each kid to stop, read their name and watch them lay their poppy, and think it will show a meaningful way to the veterans,” Molly said.

Rachel said she joined the cause because it was a way to educate those who may not be aware.

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“I don’t think a lot of younger students are aware because it didn’t affect us. We don’t know what it’s like to be in war,” Rachel said.

READ MORE: WWI veterans’ graves near B.C. ghost town were lost to time. Junior Rangers now work to save them

Their school principal Paula Robinson said the girls came to her about the initiative and researched much of the project on their own.

“When they come to us with a student-led initiative, with an idea, a spark, a passion, our job is to step to the side and really let them take the reins and take the lead, and that’s what happened with Molly,” Paula said.

“It’s much more powerful than just reading about what Remembrance Day is and reading what soldiers did in a textbook. It’s action and that makes a difference for learning.”

‘Recognize their liberties’

It’s the youths’ forward-thinking that has Ret. Maj. Patricia Murphy hopeful for the future.

“The young people that I do meet, do seem to understand and do seem to recognize their liberties in Canada,” she said.

The military veteran of 31 years has an impressive resume and knows a thing or two about serving her country.

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She became the first female squadron commander in the history of the King’s Own Calgary Regiment. She has served overseas in Bosnia-Herzegovina and was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her contributions and achievements. She’s also a practicing lawyer.

Patricia said ceremonies like No Stone Left Alone are crucial in preserving the memories of fallen soldiers. The simple gesture is a powerful teaching moment for students that goes beyond the classroom.

“At her age, she is so aware of the sacrifices that were made that she wants to recognize and honour them. I think that’s really commendable… [For those who aren’t aware], you have to have an educator or organization like No Stone Left Alone to encourage them to start thinking outside of themselves.”

Remembrance Day is a special day for Murphy. It is a day of reflection to honour the brave military men and women who fought for our country, including her father.

According to Patricia, when the Second World War broke out, her father, who was a major at the time, learned that his regiment was not among the first Canadian troops to be sent overseas.

As the story goes, William dropped rank to join the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and would be part of the Canadian troops who landed in the United Kingdom in 1939.

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At the end of the war, William returned to his law practice in Vancouver but continued his reserve career by taking command of the 22nd Armoured Brigade (Militia) between 1946 to 1950, Patricia said.

“Though he died just after my seventh birthday, his stellar example has influenced every aspect of my life, including my civilian and military career choices,” she said.

“I sure hope he’s proud of me.”

On Remembrance Day, Patricia and her husband are to lay wreaths at Battalion Park in Signal Hill.