Nancy looks at a board with clippings of her son. (Larger image clippings on the previous post. With consent from Nancy.)
I met with Nancy Flett again today. We met to discuss the upcoming 'A night with Friends Variety Show' fundraiser that I am helping her put on for the Joseph Beeper Spence Youth Drop-in Centre.
The centre is in dire need of funding, and the threat of it shutting its doors is very real.
I am so frustrated; another inner city drop-in is on the cusp of demise, and unless it can find the appropriate level of funding, there is very little that anybody can do to save it. That being said, I am not letting this happen without a fight; I will go down kicking and screaming.
I didn't grow up in the north end, I didn't use the drop-in when I was a kid, or know anybody who did for that matter. Other than knowing Nancy, and feeling a connection to her's and Beeper's story, I have no real tie to the centre at all.
Nancy is a true warrior. Today she recanted the story about the night that her little boy died. As she sat in her office chair, she got that far off look in her eyes, and she told me about how she went to the hospital that night. She said that she all she remembers of first walking into the hospital was finding a trail of blood in the hallway. She said that her head was spinning, and she was pleading with the doctors to save Beeper's life, and when they couldn't, she said she remembers going into the room where he was, and seeing her baby lying on a stretcher, bloody and with tubes hanging out of him. She said she held him, crying and begging him to open his big brown eyes.
It was truly one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life; a mother reliving the day that her son died.
Afterward, she showed me a board with old news clippings of Beeper on it.
"This is what I use when I do talks about gang violence," she told me, holding the board that contained graphic images, including one of her 13-year old son lying in the street and being worked on by paramedics.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw that," she said of the disturbing picture of her son.
It was truly horrible.
For Nancy, her goal in life -- the one that was automatically given to her by the people who killed her boy -- is to make sure that other kids don't meet the same tragic fate that her son did. She works hard, trying to keep the doors to the drop-in open for area kids, who might otherwise have no other place to go. Sure, there are other drop-in centre's in the area, but the dynamic of the north end is one that, unless you live there, it's something that many people don't understand. Many of the kids hang out in groups -- This is not to say that they are gangs, or 'bad kids' in any way -- but different groups of kids hang out at different drop-in centres; for some of the kids at the Joseph Beeper Spence Youth Drop-in, this is a place that they have that's their own. If one group of kids doesn't get along with another group, they don't use the same centre. plain and simple.
It might not be comprehensible for people who have never experienced life in the inner city, but having a safe place to go to hang out with your friends and to get a hot meal, is important.
Nancy and the rest of the staff at the centre are working hard to maintain that safe environment for the kids (and families) that use it. They are tireless in their efforts, and most of them work for minimum wage, trying to make a difference in the lives of kids who have come to rely on them.
I know that my appeal may seem desperate, but watching a mother cry and mourn for her son who was stolen from her is something that I will never forget. Helping her in her fight is the least I can do. I admire and respect her strength, and her passion, and I hope that others do too.