In September 2016, the Flagstaff Youth Risk Network (made up of Flagstaff Emergency Services, Alberta Health Services, Flagstaff Victim Services, Flagstaff Family and Community Services, Flagstaff’s Initiative to Relationship and Spousal Trauma, Flagstaff Nights Alive, Viking-Beaver FFCS and Killam RCMP Detachment, with support from the Alberta Office of Traffic Safety) was planning a mock collision for Flagstaff and Viking students.
The Network booked John Boden to be one of the featured speakers at this event. Boden had himself been a victim of a distracted driving collision in July of 2007. At that time, a teenager was texting and driving and ran into Boden head on, leaving Boden an incomplete quadriplegic. Because of that collision, Boden had begun speaking about the impact of distracted driving, presenting to students in Western Canada about his story and how his life had changed since the collision. He was a quadriplegic, but the teenager who had collided with his vehicle had walked away from the collision. Boden was not angry or bitter, but his message was clear: don’t text and drive.
Sadly, John Boden passed away in September 2016 about a week before the mock collision, so he never got the chance to speak with Flagstaff and Viking students. But the mock collision, funded by an Alberta Traffic Safety Fund (ATSF) grant went ahead that September and over 400 students took part and learned ways to increase safety on our roads, and decrease risky behaviour.
Benches and Banners
The passing of John Boden prompted the Flagstaff Youth Risk Network to look for ways to recognize his life and ways to remember him and his message “don’t text and drive”. The group came up with the ideas of placing memorial benches in local communities and also holding a banner contest involving students, asking them to design banners to be used to decrease distracted driving. The Network successfully applied for a second ATSF grant to support these initiatives.
The Network mobilized community to support the project. The banner contest received over 20 entries, and the Boden family was asked to judge the contest and pick the winners. And pick they did! They chose three winning banners across a range of artist ages, with each banner being noted for a certain impact, words, pictures and a “chilling message”. The six-year-old winner got her message across with a picture, the youth winner got her message across with words, and the teenager got her message across with a picture of a cemetery. The Boden family was pleased to be involved and looked forward to the next part of the project which was the memorial benches.
A Successful Unveiling
In August 2017, after months of working with the company building the benches, the day had come to unveil them in two communities in Flagstaff: Daysland and Forestburg. Daysland was chosen because the teenager involved in the collision was from that area, and Forestburg was chosen because Boden’s daughter now resided there with her husband. Invitations to the unveiling events were sent out.
At each unveiling of the granite benches, there were at least 30 on-lookers including Municipal officials, Alberta Office of Traffic Safety representatives, the Boden family and the general public. The benches were received with tears and laughter and much thought about how the project came about. The benches are granite with a picture of John Boden and a message of “don’t text and drive”. In Daysland the bench sits at a prominent spot on the Town’s walking trail behind the local School, and in Forestburg the bench sits on main street right in front of the Library and Post Office. Both Municipalities embraced remembering John Boden in such a gracious manner and educating people of the impact of distracted driving. The benches will remain in each spot for many years to come, and Boden’s message is on prominent display.
Please don't text and drive. Concentrate on today.
- John Boden, 1961-2016
The ATSF grant made all this possible, helping the Network educate the general public, involve youth in spreading the message of reducing risky behaviour, and remember a man who wanted things to change on our local roadways. The community came together to spread this message, working to communicate on a grass roots level and involving the Alberta Government program to assist with funding and building partnerships.
The relationships and partnerships built and enhanced by working together strengthens our community and strengthens our message to all demographics. The Flagstaff Youth Risk Network works well together for and in our community and continues to look for projects to work together on to lessen risky behaviour in youth.
If you would like to learn more about what we did, contact Lynne Jenkinson, the Executive Director of Flagstaff's Informed Response Sharing Team (FIRST) at 780-385-3976 - we'd love to hear from you!