Canada’s Governor General and former astronaut Julie Payette was in North Vancouver Saturday morning to meet with five teens who last year saved a young boy who fell to earth.
The Governor General presented Joshua Ravensbergen, Gabriel Neilson, Ethan Harvey, James MacDonald and Sam North with special commendatory coins during an informal ceremony attended by family and friends held in the atrium of District of North Vancouver municipal hall Feb. 22.
The coins, presented to deserving individuals at the Governor General’s discretion, are offered as tokens of appreciation to Canadians for remarkable acts or service to others, according to the Governor General’s office.
In the case of the five teens from North Vancouver, their heroic act occurred in February last year when the quintet of friends and avid skiers were skiing down The Cut on Grouse Mountain and saw an eight-year-old boy dangling from Screaming Eagle chairlift. The boy had slipped off the chairlift and was hanging on desperately as his father clung to him.
The teens, who now range in age from 14 to 15, raced to action after hearing the father yelling for help. They grabbed an orange safety fence on the ski run and, flipping it on its side, turned it into a makeshift safety net. After some adjustments, the boy dropped – and landed safely in the net with no injuries.
“It was like I had to do what needed to be done,” Harvey, then 13, told the North Shore News at the time.
For their efforts, the teens were honoured by the District of North Vancouver with Civic Recognition Awards last April.
Payette said she was first alerted to the teens’ heroics on the news last year and wanted to find a way to say thank-you for their quick thinking and selfless action.
“As Governor General, part of my job is to honour, recognize excellence and when you do a good deed and when you contribute to society,” said Payette.
The teens, who also received a commendation from B.C.’s lieutenant-governor Saturday, said the experience of meeting the Governor General and receiving the special coins – which on one side feature the viceregal lion holding a red maple leaf in its right paw – was a good one.
“It’s definitely cool, it’s a neat experience,” said Ravensbergen.
MacDonald, who was the first one of the group to spot the dangling boy on the chairlift, said it was especially meaningful just to get to meet the Governor General.
“It means a lot because she’s done so many great things throughout Canada,” said MacDonald.
Before leaving municipal hall for her next appointment, Payette made sure to impart one last piece of advice to the teens: “You go after your dreams, whatever it is.”
Payette has been on a whirlwind tour of Metro Vancouver since Friday. In addition to visiting North Vancouver to recognize the teens’ heroic act, she has also visited Simon Fraser University’s new School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, YWCA’s Alder Gardens, and met with first responders on the front lines of the opioid overdose crisis in Vancouver.
Tonight, Payette, who was a flag-bearer during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony prior to becoming Governor General, will deliver remarks at a 10th-anniversary gala for the Games being held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
“We’re celebrating 10 years today, so that was the anchor event, but when we come to places we try to shine light on all kinds of things that are being done in the city and around,” said Payette.
Capping off her sojourn through North Vancouver before the anniversary gala, Payette headed south to the City of North Vancouver’s Shipyard Commons to test out the municipality’s public skating plaza.
She skated and stopped to chat with many youngsters and other community members as she slid around the rink. As a former astronaut, being active is important to Payette, who said that every time she visits a community she likes to invite people to come and do an activity, such as ice skating.
“You’re very lucky. This morning I was jogging along the shore all the way to Stanley Park. I was not the only one – this is a very fit city,” she said.
She had even more specific praise for the North Shore. She made sure to visit and spend time with Phil Nuytten, inventor and founder of North Vancouver’s Nuytco Research, during this trip, she said. Payette was once one of the astronauts that Nuytten trained to use his submarines and underwater exosuit.
“I trained here in one of Phil’s suits when I was an astronaut,” said Payette, “I had to train here for several months, so I’m not new to North Vancouver.”