By Mike Gregory
Brayden Gale moved home from Alberta hoping to become a paramedic but had only been back two days when he tragically drowned at Chemainus Lake on Nov. 25, 2015.
The past year has been a tailspin of emotions for mother Laura and made worse by a string of vandalism incidents at her son’s dedication and memorial.
The dedication stands next to a rescue buoy which was installed by the family.
“I’m just trying to get through it the best that I can and every time something like this happens it just rips the scab open again,” Laura said.
Vandals have sharpied over a ceramic plate with Gale’s face.
After that was wiped clean again, they gouged out the image completely.
They also stole a fish carving created by Laura’s neighour off of the memorial.
“I don’t get it. I’m absolutely blown away,” she said, adding that it’s hard not to take it all personally. “I’m trying to heal.”
“I don’t think they realize what they’re doing to my world when they do that. It’s one step forward and two back.”
Gale was a lover of all sports but in particular lacrosse and hockey, which he started playing at the age of six in the Cowichan Valley.
When he was older even took three jobs to help his mother with the cost.
“He just had a zest for life and was a hard worker – everybody loved him,” said Laura. “He was just my best friend.”
Following high school, Gale moved away briefly to work as a welder’s helper in the pipeline industry and returned to Mill Bay last November at 22 years old looking for a fresh start.
“He was so excited to be moving home to be spending time with his aging grandma,” said Laura.
Gale arrived home on the Monday morning, helped cook the family dinner, and departed Wednesday for Chemainus Lake.
He was in a canoe fishing with his roommate from Alberta Liem Pham when it flipped sending both men into the frigid waters.
“He knew how to swim and was a strong swimmer. I think the cold just got to him,” Laura said.
According to friends, Gale struggled to remove his jeans that were weighing him down while his friend made is safely to shore.
On shore, there was nothing long enough, such as a branch, that could reach back to Gale who was close to 30 feet out in the lake.
According to the Lifesaving Society there was over 650 deaths from drowning in the province last year and most were preventable.
“It’s huge. You don’t really think about it much because you think it’s a rare thing but it’s not,” Laura said.
She has taken up the cause to having lifebuoys installed at as many local lakes as possible.
Each costs around $1,200 and is shipped directly from the United Kingdom.
Currently the family has helped with the installation of lifebouys at Kin Beach, Fuller Lake, Chemainus Lake and Maple Bay Wharf.
The Chemainus Rotary helped pay for two of the throw rings and West Coast PreFab also made a contribution, with the family paying for the balance.
“When you lose somebody so close you really want to start helping out in the world and make a change,” Laura said.
“It’s just unbelievable how strong that feeling becomes.”
An Island Savings trust fund account was created to support fundraising for more life rings.
The account number for donating is #2470102.
There is also a online fundraising page at https://www.gofundme.com/braydengale.
“All the money will go to the life rings around the valley and I’d like to expand to the Cowichan Valley Regional District as well,” Laura said.
“This is where it hit me so I should try and save other people from this.”