The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) paid a visit to the Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre on March 30 to commemorate the lasting legacy of Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, who was a dedicated Canadian Forces medic and killed back in 2006 while in Afghanistan.
Two navy officers and Naval Cadet (NCdt) presented the centre with hand-knitted dolls and blankets, among other things, early that morning, having also explained the significance of remembering Boomer’s legacy.
“It has been an honour and privilege to receive this donation from the Boomer Foundation,” Garth Holden, interim president of the centre and former medic in the Canadian Armed Forces said. “This particular donation is going to be immediately useful to our programs. We do a lot of family programming.” Holden mentioned that during his enlistment with the army he had the opportunity to meet Boomer.
Holding such an event like this to commemorate his legacy at the centre is fitting, Holden noted. The gifts, which included toques, dolls, and blankets, “will immediately go into the hands of people who are going to be able to appreciate and cherish them,” he continued, “I think it’s going to be a really, really useful and immediately useful donation to our programming. These gifts will make a huge difference in the programming we do in this community.”
The gifts, Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Todd Kennedy explained, were handmade by families across Canada, who believe in the spirit of the Boomer Foundation and want to contribute to the legacy. LCdr Kennedy also noted: “We were asked and approached by the Boomer’s Legacy Foundation if we were in a position to be able to support a donation on behalf of the family whereby we would bring knitted goods, toques, blankets and dolls.”
“We can carry on with Boomer’s legacy as it was envisioned,” he said of donating to the centre. “The goal of that legacy is to empower the raising and providing of charitable funds or donation gifts in kind.”
He also mentioned that by doing so the armed forces are able to carry on Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom’s strongly felt desire to provide needed humanitarian assistance. “In this case, with our Task Group deploying to Port McNeill we thought it a great opportunity to connect with the local community and we are still meeting the spirit of Boomer’s legacy by being Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed, albeit locally in a domestic role.”
Accompanying LCdr Kennedy was petty officer second class and non-commissioned officer Stephen Morrison, who’s secondary duties include involvement in what is known as the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, which has a mandate to bring awareness of the Canadian Armed Forces to Indigenous peoples who may be interested in enlisting. NCdt Stephanie Nicol, logistics officer, was responsible for escorting the two officers and taking photography of the event in Port Hardy and in Port McNeill.
Exercise Northern Reach showcases the RCN’s ongoing community relations with local coastal communities while also helping train future leaders in navigation and maintaining a realistic operational tempo, Sub-Lieutenant and public affairs officer Michael Déry said via email. He noted that the four vessels in Port McNeill were patrol craft training ORCA-class vessels based out of the Canadian Armed Forces base in Esquimalt, which routinely train and patrol around Vancouver Island.
“As part of Exercise Northern Reach, four such vessels are stopping in Port McNeill and hosting tours as well as a day sail for stakeholders, including local Kwakwala speaking peoples,” the public affairs officer continued, having also noted that this was the first time four ORCA-class vessels visited Port McNeill.
ORCA-class vessel crews and Naval Warfare Officer students learn to be good stewards of the environment by reporting suspicious activity, pollution infractions, and fishing violations, the email release stated. They are also frequently tasked for search and rescue operations or providing assistance to boaters in distress.
Every summer, members of the RAVEN program also sail onboard ORCA-class vessels. This unique summer employment program combines Indigenous culture and teachings with basic military training. The program is designed to build bridges between Canadian Armed Forces and Indigenous communities in Canada.
– Press release from Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre