Sacha Chenier was a young boy who loved comic book heroes… specifically Batman, so I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated his life, and raise money for a special-needs park dedicated to his memory, than with 120 people dressed up in superhero capes dancing and laughing in the rain.
Sacha died in 2014. He was 11-years old. He was born, and lived with, cerebral palsy and all the complications that came with the disease. Including epilepsy. And that, in the end, is what killed him. He spent most of his young life in a wheelchair, and that’s why his family — and a whole lot of other people — are trying to raise money for the park.
…I barely know the family. I met them for the first time at the Zumba event. I never met Sacha. I only found out about what he went through during his short life a couple of weeks ago. But I am a human being, and I am a father to three young children. And every time I see a photo of Sacha’s smiling face, or watch a video of him playing and laughing with his family, I just want to stop and hug him and tell him everything will be okay.
But I can’t.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks. I don’t mingle in large crowds very often. And the emotion of the Zumba event (which feels strange to write) got to me… it was incredibly moving watching the participants come together for a child most of them had never met, to put together a facility a bunch of kids they don’t know can use to play. For crying out loud, these people raised $16,000 for the park project… that’s a one, two-hour event, in a town of 2,100 people.
Empathy is the reason. When we put a face to a cause, when we can identify with the tragedy, and give ourselves a purpose, that’s when stuff gets fixed. A photo of a little boy washing up on a European beach focussed the minds of 100’s of millions of people, where four years of newscasts showing civil war and destruction couldn’t. It’s about seeing people who don’t deserve to suffer, suffering, and finally being able to say “dammit, I can change that. I’m a human fucking being, and I can help.”
And that’s just what these people did.
Sacha was just a boy. A special boy, yes, and a boy I would have liked to have met. But still, just a little boy in a huge world. But his short life has given people a reason. He has made them feel empathy for a cause. All these people want to do is build a park in his memory, but after spending time with Sacha’s family, and learning about the little boy, it feels so much more important than just some play structures and a patch of grass. This would be a place where children like Sacha can play. Just play, and not feel like they’re different. Or be made to feel ‘unable’.
And that’s because we have Sacha.
…they’re still accepting donations.
“The funds raised will go towards the purchase of equipment for Sacha’s Park, a universally accessible playground project to be built in L’Orignal in memory of Sacha Chenier. The project, being spearheaded by Sacha’s family, who have donated land for the project, has received enthusiastic support from members of the Champlain Township council. The proposal has also seen broad community support since it was announced this past March. The park, once built, will be one of the most inclusive playgrounds in Canada and feature items that will allow children of all abilities to play together.”
Anyway… click on the first photo to get the carousel going, and check out the video at the bottom of the page (everyone dancing / cooling off to Sacha’s favourite song), and enjoy a bunch of human beings coming together and dancing in the name and spirit of an 11-year old child.