July 5th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 27
Hailey’s memorial play area at Lions Park
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Lisa Sygutek Photo
Brooklyn van Eck, two, and her dad Evan enjoy the new playground structure at Lions Park in Blairmore. The new piece of equipment was dedicated as a memorial to Hailey Blanchette-Dunbar.
Lisa Sygutek
Pass Herald Reporter
On Sept. 15, 2015, when little Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette was considered missing, people from the Crowsnest Pass gathered at the Lions Park in Blairmore for a candlelight vigil.

The vigil soon turned to a scene of misery when police told dozens who had gathered to pray for Hailey that her remains had been found in a wooded area north of Blairmore.

Terry Blanchette’s body had been discovered the day before in his home in Blairmore.

The outcome was the stuff of nightmares, but it seems fitting that in the same area as the vigil a playground jungle gym is erected in her name.

In the wake of their deaths it was well known that Terry and his daughter spent countless hours in the same park just a block from their house. According to Tammy Tracey who worked with Terry at Pure Country, “Hailey loved to play there with her dad”.
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On Nov. 4, 2016 the Blairmore Lions received a matching grant of $20,000 from the provincial Community Facility Enhancement Program to buy playground equipment for Lions Park.

In the weeks after the murders, approximately $20,000 was raised through a number of fundraising efforts, spearheaded by the staff at Pure Country Saloon where Terry worked as a cook, and entrusted to the Blairmore Lions.

One such effort called The Ride for Terry and Hailey saw hundreds of bikers gather in Longview to make a 130-kilometre ride down the Cowboy Trail to the Pass. It raised over $9,000.

According to Daryl Wig, spokesman for the Blairmore Lions Club and the person overseeing the volunteer component of the build, “once funding was confirmed, BDI Play Design was contacted to see what options there were for the area.” The organization has dealt with the playground equipment provider in the past.

With $40,000 in matching grants and fundraised money and an injection of $10,000 from the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass the project was a go. According to Wig, “coincidentally we began set up on the same day the jury begin deliberations. Our timing was focused on getting finished in time for the renovated pool opening next week.”

Once word got out in the community that the equipment was being installed, dozens of people showed up to lend a hand. “We had so many people outside our organization show up, we had to turn a few away, just on sheer numbers”.
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Start to finish; it took the volunteers a day and a half to erect the ‘Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette Memorial Play Area’.

With the trial finished and Derek Saretzky found guilty on all counts, the community can start the healing process.

On the same day volunteers began building the memorial, the jury in the Saretzky trial was finally sequestered to make their decision. Three hours later, they came back with the verdicts that most were expecting: guilty of first-degree murder, plus guilty of causing indignity to a body in the case of Hailey.

While Wig and the volunteers were aware of the ongoing deliberations, they’d prefer to focus on the positive work at hand.

According to the van Eck family, who were enjoying the new structure, “the jungle gym structure has butterflies on the top of the poles. Butterflies signify rebirth and hope. Perhaps with this little act people can think of Hailey playing in the park and not of how she died.”
July 5th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 27
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