The real story of 2007

When looking back at 2007 this week, its clear our community once again had a lot of wonderful things to celebrate, tough challenges to tackle, and heart-wrenching tragedies to deal with.
Certainly the most positive news of the past year was the approval and start of a biomass boiler by Abitibi-Consolidated (now AbitibiBowater), thanks in no small part to the support of its unions, as well as funding and other considerations from all three levels of government.
With more mills closing in towns right across the region, the fact a forest industry company is investing in a project bodes well for our future, though theres still the nagging worry, at least under current conditions, that AbitibiBowater probably could make more money selling power than paper (at a much reduced workforce).
The most amazing story of 2007 was the incredible success of the “Just Imagine” campaign to raise $1.5 million in six short months so Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. could purchase a CT Scanner for La Verendrye Hospital here.
The importance of state-of-the-art health care “close to home” was reflected by the generosity of district residents and businesses in support of this campaign.
It also was great to see the Fort Frances Museum unveil its $900,000 renovation at its Scott Street site, as well as the launch of the “Building for the Future” fundraising campaign in support of a new public library here.
To date, that campaign already has raised close to two-thirds of its $750,000 goal.
And finally, the purchase of the clinic by the Fort Frances Community Clinic, Inc., thanks to a $1 million interest-free loan from the Town of Fort Frances, should help in the crucial local efforts to recruit and retain physicians here.
On the sports front, 2007 marked the return of Junior A hockey here with the launch of the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres in the SIJHL.
In the district, this year saw the drive to build an abattoir continue to move along, as is fundraising for a spray park in Emo. As well, efforts to promote local food to local consumers was highlighted by a successful “harvest supper” this past fall.
Mining companies being bullish on Rainy River District is positive news, too.
Easily the most heart-warming story of the year was Tara Tovey and her winning battle with drug addiction. Her courage to share her struggles not only was a source of inspiration to others facing the same fight, but also served as a wake-up call about the extent of the problem locally and the need for a youth addictions facility in the area—now being spearheaded by Parents Against Illicit Narcotics (PAIN) with the help of groups like the local Substance Abuse Prevention Team and addiction counsellors.
The most controversial story of 2007, meanwhile, had to be town councils decision to call a byelection on Jan. 14 to replace Coun. Tannis Drysdale rather than appoint Ken Perry, who was the first runner-up in last Novembers municipal election.
The soaring Canadian loonie, meanwhile, re-ignited a backlash over “outshopping” as the local Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign to encourage consumers to spend their money here.
But for all these stories, however, 2007 may best be remembered as the year we lost five young people to tragic circumstances. In late May, 13-year-old Bryce Devoe was killed by lightning at the St. Francis Sportsfields; Ben Klyne, 17, and Neil Roy, 16, died in a single-vehicle accident in August; Ashley Smith, 18, was murdered in late October at Naicatchewenin First Nation, and Tyler Cottam, 18, of Nestor Falls was fatally injured in a hunting accident earlier this month.
We can only hope the outpouring of support typical of our community has comforted the families and helped them cope with their grief.
Lets hope, too, that their passings spur the rest of us to put our own lives into perspective. To realize that family, friends, and neighbours are the most important things in life; not the forest industry crisis, doctor recruitment, outshopping, crumbling infrastructure, or all the other woes we may face.
These issues are important, yes, but they must never overshadow an appreciation for all that we have—and the sombre realization of just how quickly it can be taken away.
Thats the real story of 2007 we must take forward with us.