Betty Rawcliffe, the grandmother of 15 year old Bradley Levesque, the Terrace teen who died after taking a fatal blow to the chest during a Thornhill birthday party in January 2011, spoke to all of the students at Lakes District Secondary School (LDSS) assembly last week.
Rawcliffe warned the students about the dangers of play fighting and underage drinking.
Levesque’s mom, Sonya Thomas remained in Terrace, however Rawcliffe who lives in Burns Lake said she plans to travel to other district high schools to pass on the message.
“Even if only one kid listens to me then it has been worthwhile,” she said.
Levesque and his best friend were play punching each other at the birthday party when he suddenly fell to the ground, unresponsive.
Kevin Preece, the father of the girl who was celebrating her birthday, performed CPR on the boy until paramedics and police arrived.
Levesque was pronounced dead at the Mills Memorial Hospital shortly after 2 a.m., just one hour later.
“My grandson was punched three times in the chest and it was the third blow that killed him,” said Rawcliffe.
She explained that there is a moment between each heart beat that can cause death when a person is punched in the chest.
Rawcliffe said to Lakes District News that she wants parents to quit being their children’s friend. “Parents should be parents and not be afraid to say no. I know sometimes this is hard but parents should not be afraid to ask for help if they need it. Being a parent is tough, but it is important to say no,” she said.
Rawcliffe said she was not going to stand there and paint a rosy picture of her grandson. “He did drink alcohol,” she said.
She went on to say that at the time of the incident Levesque’s friends told her that he had only a couple of drinks at the party.
“They lied. [through the autopsy they found out] he was very inebriated,” she added.
“When you drink your mind is altered, you are not thinking clearly when you drink,” Rawcliffe said to the students.
“His best friend killed him but we are not going to have him charged, we are not blaming him,” she said.
She went on to say that they were playing a game called ‘shot for shot’ punching each other in the chest in order to inflict pain on each other.
“I know there are many games out there like this as well as choking games. I want you to think twice about drinking, playing stupid games and what the end result could be,” Rawcliffe said, holding back tears as she spoke.
“Think about what your mom and dad, your brothers and sisters and your friends would have to go through if you died. You are not 10 feet tall and bullet proof.”
“My grandson would say ‘chill grandma, I am cool. Yeah he was cool alright … he is not so cool any more. Memories are all we have left. No phone calls from him asking when we can go camping together, no hugs ….. I want you all to look at your best friend and hug them and tell them that you care about them. Don’t let them play games like this or drink and drive or get into a vehicle with someone that has been drinking,” she said.
“When you are drinking you don’t think far enough ahead to realize what could happen. This community has lost so many kids to drinking and driving.”
Rawcliffe went on to explain that when adults say no it is for a good reason.
“Unfortunately Bradley didn’t listen. His younger brother is 10 years old and he is very angry. We had to tell him that his older brother was not coming home anymore. I have never had to go through this before, but here I am standing before a bunch of strangers, crying and saying please don’t drink and drive and please don’t play stupid games. The games are a disgrace,” Rawcliffe said.
“If you feel the need to punch each other to show how tough and strong you are, don’t punch in the chest or the face, instead punch each other in the arm or the legs if you have that need. Bruises might go away, but if you kill someone you will remember that for the rest of your life,” she added.
The students sat in complete silence, some weeping while Rawcliffe spoke.
She told them that her number is in the phone book and if any of them are stuck somewhere and the only choice is to get into a vehicle with someone that has been drinking then they should phone her.
“I will be there in a heart beat. There is also your principal and the RCMP. All you have to do is pull a police officer aside and ask for help and they are there for you. People do care about you,” Rawcliffe said.
“All I want is for one of you to tell me that you will not drink anymore,” she added.
LDSS principal Mike Skinner said to the students that he hoped the message would be taken and remembered tonight, tomorrow night and into the future.
“Even if this message saves just one person it is well worth spending these few minutes listening to Mrs. Rawcliffe’s message,” he said.
Skinner said he had been in the community as a teacher and principal for 18 years.
“In these 18 years, 20 students that I have taught have died. That’s an average of more than one per year and it is heartbreaking,” he added.
After the presentation Rawcliffe was supported by family friend and local resident Dolly Moyer who said to Lakes District News that she knew the feeling of heartbreak. Moyer said that seven years ago her daughter was killed in a car accident when the kids she was with had been drinking and driving.
“There were five people in the vehicle and my daughter was the only one that died. I know what it is like to lose a loved one,” Moyer said.
LDSS students approached Rawcliffe after the assembly giving her hugs and offering their condolences, some of the students tearfully mentioned that they knew Levesque personally and were noticeably upset.