Nov 24, 2016 - FAMILIES, FRIENDS REFLECT ON MEMORIES OF THREE YOUTH WHO LOST LIVES FIVE YEARS AGO


This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic deaths of Bradley Arsenault, Thaddeus Lake, and Kole Novak, who were all killed by Jonathan Pratt, convicted of manslaughter and impaired driving causing death back in August 2014. 

Pratt was driving the vehicle that struck and killed the three boys in the early morning hours of November 26, 2011 on Highway 625 outside of Beaumont.

“Although it’s an anniversary, it’s something that from the moment I wake up, it’s on my mind. For me it feels like just yesterday,” said Sheri Arsenault, Bradley’s mother. 

“When an anniversary rolls around, a lot of the very awful memories, like that knock on the door, just a very tragic part of it is kind of what you play out in your mind. Other times, I find it hard to believe that it’s been five years since I’ve seen Bradley or heard his voice. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see him again just one more time.”

The loss of their lives has been felt throughout the community, as these three young men had touched the lives of many in Beaumont and Leduc County. 

Over the last five years, the families have been hard at work to carry on their legacy. 


Strengthening legislation around impaired driving


Arsenault has been working tirelessly over the last five years to bring legislation to parliament which would introduce a mandatory minimum sentence, and close out many of the loopholes that allow impaired drivers to avoid conviction. 

Her group, Families For Justice, has been working hard to enact changes within parliament, compiling research, meeting with affected groups and politicians over the last five years. 

“Right now, the mandatory minimum penalty for a convicted impaired driver that caused death or deaths is a $1,000 fine. We know that there are benefits to mandatory minimums to keep the general public safe, for a deterrent for the general public to realize there is a serious consequence to doing this crime,” Arsenault said. 

“I have over 100,000 signatures, so I know that the public perceives this sentencing as very lenient, and yet it causes deaths.”

Arsenault said in the legislation’s current state, only 22 per cent of all impaired driving cases get charged, and only 11 per cent of that group are convicted by the court. 

“It’s not the person who is charged with drunk driving causing death that’s in trial, it’s actually the investigation that’s on trial. And one thing Bill C-226, is it fills many of those loopholes that defence lawyers use,” Arsenault said. “I believe it will save lives. That, I have always said, is a powerful legacy, that Brad Kole and Thad, makes their live’s meaning more significant.”

The private-members bill, called Bill C-226, past second reading in parliament in the spring, and is currently going through a standing committee before going back for third reading.

In the mean ime, Arsenault has been presenting her story to youth and adults all over Alberta about the traumas faced by the victims family.

“I’ve been doing a lot of speaking around with Grade 9 students, giving them a presentation as a victim about the horrors of drinking and driving, and what can happen, not only to Brad Kole and Thad, but even to the drunk driver. I always say, drunk drivers have mothers, too,” she said. 

“I hope if anybody out there, if it’s church groups, schools, or youth groups that would like me to give a presentation, because if just one person catches on and tells a friend, and understands it’s not worth it — there’s other ways to get home — that, too is something that I know would put a smile on my face and also be very powerful for Brad, too.”


“Let the music speak for itself” - Thaddeus Lake


The Thaddeus Lake Music Foundation has also seen a large amount of success over the last five years. 

The foundation was created in Thad’s memory, as just three weeks before his passing, he had told his parents of his wish to start a charity to help underprivileged youth be able to learn and play music. 

“Thad was involved in a band, and so he knew all of the passion, the excitement of being in a rock band. So he wanted other kids to have the chance to experience playing music,” mother Karen Lake said. 

“It has been the most incredible gift that we could have ever received from him, because it’s just healed our hearts.” 

The work has opened the family up to the community, and they have received support from too many benefactors to name in the form of musical instruments, and monetary donations alike. 

Since it started, the foundation has been able to provide a wide variety of lessons to kids of all ages, reconditioned instruments, helped Val Baron’s Jr. High band go across Canada to compete in a national competition, which they took second in, and has donated an entire rock band ensemble of instruments to youth and facilities like the Boys and Girls Club of Leduc. 

“Seeing the community coming together, and being able to do this work for the foundation is so endearing to us, and it helps so much on the healing because we think that we’re moving our son’s memory forward and his dream,” Lake said. 

“I feel like I’m taking my son with me every step of the way. Thaddeus and I go out to do this work, so it’s somehow allows me to keep him close that way. That really has helped me personally.”

The foundation receives support from a large variety of friends, family, businesses, and anonymous donors in Edmonton, Beaumont, and Leduc. Even though Lake has never met her, one benefactor gave the foundation enough money to purchase four guitars — two half-sized and two three-quarter-sized — for the Boys and Girls Club so that younger kids could learn how to play on instruments their own size. 

Local music shops give the organization drastically reduced rates on tuning and refurbishing instruments for lending out or resale to support the foundation. 

In 2017, the foundation will seek partnerships with more music shops to continue building their offerings to the communities, Lake said. 

The love of music has always filled the Lake family home, and continuing on with that journey through music is an absolute joy for the family. 

“He was so excited about music, his life was music, and every chance he could get he loved to play. He was trained in piano, but he played guitar and drums and different bands, and touring with his music, festivals around here,” Lake said. 

“It’s just so near and dear to our hearts to see that work expanding in his name throughout our local communities and seeing the difference that it’s making, or hearing from various teachers the impact that it’s having on these kids. When people send us letters and say this is the result, it’s just filling for our souls. It comforts us in a lot of ways.”

To schedule a presentation or to find more information about the legacy of the youth and the projects being carried out in their names, contact Sheri@bradkolethad.com

Source: Beaumont News 

Last updated on: 2016-12-22 | Link to this post