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Port Alberni considers creating park in memory of boy, 6, killed by his mother

“We want a space where people can laugh and play and create memories with their families,” says a family spokesman
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Dontay Patrick Lucas died on March 13, 2018, of blunt force trauma to the brain after being transitioned back into the care of his mother. VIA FAMILY

Port Alberni council is considering creating a park or playground dedicated to the memory of a six-year-old boy killed by his mother and stepfather almost six years ago.

At an emotional committee of the whole meeting on Monday, family and friends of Dontay Patrick Lucas held framed ­photos and shared their memories of the little boy “whose smile would light up a room.”

“We want him to be remembered and we want his memory to be preserved in a way that promotes joy and isn’t just a case study or just a sad story that happened in our town,” said family spokesman Graham Hughes.

“We want a space where people can laugh and play and create memories with their families in the way that Dontay was able to with his family.”

Hughes asked councillors to create a place “dedicated to happiness and joy, because that’s where the healing can happen.” He also asked that Dontay’s family be included in the planning process.

“This is a really impactful way for us to commit to, not only Dontay, but to the ‘every child matters’ movement,” he said.

Dontay died on March 13, 2018, of blunt force trauma to the brain after being transitioned back into the care of his mother by USMA Nuu-chah-nulth family and child services.

His mother, Rykel Charleson, and stepfather, Mitchell Frank, were accused of depriving the boy of water, food and sleep, hitting and biting him. The couple, who were originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and are to be sentenced in Port Alberni on May 16 and 17.

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions expressed support for the concept of creating a park or playspace, or possibly renaming a park that was meaningful to Dontay, “maybe someplace where he played.”

“The meaningful work will be communicating with the family … to get a better understanding of what might be meaningful, rather than us just picking a place,” said Minions.

Coun. Debbie Haggard said she also loved the idea of a memorial for Dontay, which would be meaningful for children in the community.

Councillors unanimously supported Minions’ proposal to work with the family to find a place to celebrate Dontay’s life.

Dontay’s father, Patrick Lucas, told the committee that he has many precious memories of his son.

“He was loved by many. He was known by many and that’s what we should really cherish because that’s all we have,” said Lucas.

Dontay’s grandmother, Florence Campbell, said she missed her grandson dearly.

“He comes from a huge family on both sides. He was part of us,” she said, her voice shaking. “My grandson was a huge part of this valley.”

Hughes told the committee he met Dontay on the bus during the time the little boy was being abused at home. Despite that, Dontay smiled and was friendly with everyone, he said.

“It is humbling to think that he was able to have such resilience and such kindness throughout when most of us, I don’t think, would survive. He was a beautiful child.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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