Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just a few more days till Christmas

Things have been busy leading up to the holiday season here in Bracebridge. They were even busier for a group of students at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School, who spent the past few weeks handcrafting 1,600 wooden toys for children in the community.

They gave away many of them during a Santa's Workshop event they hosted for area kids at the school.

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But because many kids from area schools couldn't make it to pick up toys due to the elementary teachers strike, the students and teacher Marty Scarlett hand delivered them to area schools the next day. Everything else left over was given to the Bracebridge Salvation Army.

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Weeks before, students at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School walked out in support of the teachers strike.

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This was followed by a one-day strike by the elementary teachers. The teachers and their supporters picket outside of Monck P.S. in this photo.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Teachers protest in Bracebridge

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Teachers took the streets of downtown Bracebridge to voice their complaints over Bill 115 earlier this week. The surprising thing is, their students are planning to join them with a walkout on Monday.

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With the exception of one person in a passing vehicle who told them to "go back to f---ing work," most passing drivers honked their horns in a show of support.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Generous reader helps couple with nowhere to go find a home

Are newspapers still relevant? I certainly hope they still are. Awhile ago, I wrote a story about David and Shelly Burman - two retirees who survive in a trailer home on disability payments of $1,700 per month between the both of them. David suffers from leukemia, while his wife and primary caregiver is battling depression.
Last year, when I first visited them, they lived in this modified trailer home on the banks of the Muskoka River. The Town of Bracebridge was mounting a crackdown on illegally-modified properties, telling the couple they had to tear down their home because it was situated on a flood plain and that it was in violation of the Building Code.

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For much of the past year, the Burmans have been worried the crackdown would leave them homeless by the time the snow falls. They complied with the town's demands by taking down other structures on their properties that were deemed not in compliance, but their hands were tied when it came to the main trailer they lived in.

Fortunately, on November 1, a generous reader who saw the story in the paper decided to lend a helping hand. The reader took the Burmans in as tenants, giving them a steep discount on the rent. They've since moved into a new home, and have a warm place to spend the winter.

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The town has offered some help by contacting outside organizations that may be able to tear down their trailer for free. But at the moment, the Burmans are still wrapped up in the court system over their Building Code charges.

Regardless of what happens in the new year, it's great to know there are people in Bracebridge who do have a heart, and who are willing to help their fellow citizens.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tattered pages tell story of VE day in Bracebridge

It was that time of year again - time to write a feature story about Remembrance Day. This year, however, I went with something a little different than just the standard veteran story. Local volunteer Bob Hartman - who gives his time to nearly every good cause under the sun in Bracebridge - had come to me earlier in the year with pages from a scrapbook his late wife, Joyce Lees, made when she was just 13 years old.
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The pages of that notebook told a remarkable story of VE Day in Bracebridge. A street party, an effigy of Hitler burned downtown, and a torchlight parade where people were encouraged to bring along an old broom or something to burn.
The scrapbook still had an original poster from that night.
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The scrapbook has been donated to the Bracebridge Legion, where it sits as a document of record for the ages.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now that's a shootout!

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In the above picture, the Bracebridge OPP even up the odds a bit during a hockey skills competition against former NHL players. The local cops took on former players like Kris King, Brent Gretzky and Mark Laforest in a fundraising game for Special Olympics.

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The game began with Crabby Joe leading local dignitaries to centre ice.

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And featured tons of shenanigans to keep fans on their feet.

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Walter Gretzky was also there... arriving in style.

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Kudos to the local OPP detachment. Even though they lost 14-10, it was great to see local police reaching out to the community, and giving back to the town they serve.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fatal accident and housing issues

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It was a tragic start to the week on Monday when a two-vehicle head-on collision killed one woman and left three injured. Rescue crews spent about an hour extricating four patients from the wreck, and sent one to hospital immediately through air ambulance.

Last Friday, I caught up with Nicole Bowser, a single mother of three who lives in a trailer home in Gravenhurst. She's one of those people you meet every so often with an inspiring story but who is facing a difficult challenge in life. When she lost her job working with troubled youth, she put herself through college to retrain and healthcare, and now juggles her kids with a 50-hour work week and two jobs - one as a PSW and another as a vocational support worker.
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With mould and rot slowly eating away at her home, she applied to a provincial renovation grant to get repairs underway. Problem is, she was denied the funds as her home sits on leased land. Always heartbreaking when I'm sent to cover stories like hers.

She understands help might not come anytime soon, but she's hoping mobile home owners who aren't landowners won't be forgotten.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A September visit to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

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It seems like forever since Viv and I went on vacation in September and visited the warplane museum in Hamilton. Between work and our business, we hadn't had the time to get to some of the photos till now. We had always wanted to visit the warplane museum in Toronto, but were very disappointed when we learned it had closed down.
You can imagine our delight when we found out there was another warplane museum within a short drive of home.

Viv was particularly happy to learn they host weddings there. It would certainly make for a memorable big day.
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Amazing dedication from the volunteers who keep the place running, and the planes flying, after nearly 70 years!

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Man found dead after vehicle accident, rescue demonstrations in Gravenhurst

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A call came in early last week about a vehicle accident at the southwest corner of Bracebridge. When rescuers arrived, they found this car in a field with an elderly driver slumped over. Investigators believe the car struck a train bridge before veering off the road into the field. The man was pronounced dead by the coroner who attended the scene, though police said nothing appeared suspicious. Just another one of those times in this job where you're reminded of how precious and fragile life can be.

Earlier that week, water rescue demonstrations were held at the Gravenhurst Wharf. Hats off to the volunteer "victims" who volunteered to jump into the freezing cold water for the cameras.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Overtime magic for Bracebridge Phantoms

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After all the talk around town about a new hockey team arriving, Viv and I finally had the chance to see the Bracebridge Phantoms in action. When we arrived at the end of the first period, the Phantoms were enjoying a commanding 6-1 lead, which they quickly turned into a 7-1 lead (see picture above).
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However, the Titans regrouped, and fought back hard.
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It was goal after goal for the Titans in the second and third periods. By the last minute of play in the third period, the Phantoms led with a score of only 7-6.
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With just 12.2 seconds left in the game, it was heartbreak for the Phantoms, as the Titans managed just managed to squeeze one past Phantoms goalie Joe Jermain.
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The sudden onset of a tie game prompted some serious discussions at the Phantoms bench.
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In the end, the Phantoms prevailed about one and a half minutes into the third period. All in all, a great show. Definitely looking forward to shooting their next game.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bracebridge Fall Fair firefighter challenge

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The Bracebridge Fire Department held its annual firefighter challenge during the town's Fall Fair on September 16. Fourteen firefighters from across the Simcoe-Muskoka area took part in the challenge. Modeled after the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, firefighters compete in teams of two, and aim the finish the course as quickly as possible. The challenge begins with the competitors donning full bunker gear.

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They then had to ascend up a 20-foot tower.
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Once at the top, they hauled a roll of hose up with a piece of rope. DSC_6522
Once knocking a Keyzer force machine a distance of five feet with a hammer, they had to haul a length of fully-charged hose for 50 feet.
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They then had to hit a target with the hose.
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The final stretch involved hauling a 175-dummy a distance of 60 feet to the finish line - probably the most exhausting part of the challenge.
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At the end of the day, Bracebridge firefighters Benji Tubam and Naresh Harriram were declared the winners. DSC_6864
Also, Viv and I had the chance to check out the Bracebridge Fire Department's museum. Lots of interesting old firefighting artifacts.
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