By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HAGERSVILLE — Hagersville and the surrounding area has been blanketed with ribbons as part of the Purple Ribbon Campaign – Peace for Alex Dalton in honour of the 23-year-old Hagersville resident who was killed in a tragic hit-and-run incident on April 23.
“Alex was always extremely positive. I don’t even like the word ‘was’,” said his mother Andrea King. “From the moment he was born he was always full of life and enjoyed every second and everything he did.”
She continued, “He’s always been our rock. He’s a grounding force not just for me but his friends. He’s the one you can call on for anything. In an emergency he was always calm, in good times he was always ready to go.”
Andrea described her son as an avid outdoorsman, with a love for things like canoeing, paddle-boarding, snowboarding, and sports.
“He was a good kid,” said Alex’s father, Wayne Dalton. “He didn’t say no to people, he was always very polite and respectful.… He got along with everybody. He lived day to day and that’s what he wanted to do. He never got angry – he just liked his life.”
“From the time he was very, very little he always recognized the importance of being connected to the land, but also protecting it,” Andrea added. “We have an obligation as First Nations people to protect the land. Alex was really proud of who he was and his community. He was proud to be Native.”
Andrea always made sure Alex knew who he was and the significance of his cultural heritage: “We’re here to experience life … to feel tangible things, taste tangible things, and embrace the joy that life has to offer. That’s what we’re here for and he very much embraced and understood that.”
At just 12 years old, Alex was asking to learn how to hunt – the first in a series of skills he would learn over the years: “He didn’t do that great in school, but he did amazing out on the land. Learning to camp, survival skills. He was a bush crafter; he loved making things with his hands. He was a woodworker…. He was always in the garage working on his vehicles…. He had big vision. He had plans to become a conservation officer.”
Wayne will treasure the memories he has of hunting trips with his son and the many times they enjoyed a good ride on their quads.
The Purple Ribbon Campaign was an idea brought to the Dalton family by Sherri Lafleur, whose son Julien was one of Alex’s best friends. The two grew up together in Hagersville and lived together in Peterborough while attending Fleming College.
“After the accident we had a heart-wrenching two or three weeks. In the papers it was all about the hit-and-run and that’s important, but it was like a void that they weren’t talking about Alex and who he is,” said Lafleur.
The colours purple and blue were chosen on purpose, with purple representing both the fact that Alex was the victim of a tragic event, but also that he will be remembered as a hero by those who knew him. Blue was chosen as it was Alex’s favourite colour.
“We need his story to be spread. We need pressure to be put on those responsible and those around them that are allowing this to go unsolved. People need to be responsible for their actions and the guilty individuals should not be out there living their lives while Alex, a bright, so incredibly liked young man with his future ahead of him, is laying in the ground,” said Laura Arnold, a volunteer helping with the campaign.
The campaign kicked off two weekends ago, when Lafleur, Arnold, and members of the Dalton family placed the first set of ribbons on poles and participating homes along King Street West and Ferris Road, before heading into the downtown area and placing ribbons wherever they could until they ran out of materials.
“It has since expanded exponentially. There are offers to make bows from so many groups and individuals, our bow making group alone is a few dozen and the volunteer group is up to 50 now. Shannon Adams’ family has stepped up and made over 100 bows and counting,” said Arnold. “The county is rallying behind him and his family.”
Lafleur added, “It’s spreading out. It’s Caledonia, Jarvis, Selkirk. Everybody wants ribbons. Townsend is decorating.”
This past weekend, seven different teams, totalling over 50 people, blanketed Main Street in Hagersville in ribbons.
The Knights of Columbus took part, placing ribbons at local churches and St. Mary’s School, where Alex attended as a child.
Andrea worked with a crew starting on Third Line at CGC, where Alex worked in the mines.
The local Tim Hortons in Hagersville has joined in the cause as well, creating a special purple and blue ‘Alex Dalton’ donut that will be sold for the next two weeks, with 100% of the profits going towards the Dalton family.
“We’ve got to the point where I have depleted all of the other stores of product because we’re selling so many of them,” said Kerrie Swain, Manager, noting that the store had sold almost 2,000 donuts at that time, only days into the campaign. “It’s very important to the entire community that this gets resolved and that we find out what happened so the family can have some closure.”
Now that Hagersville has been adorned with ribbons, the campaign is gearing up to tackle Caledonia in a big way next weekend with June 12 being called ‘Paint the Town Purple’ day with more ribbons, a raffle hosted by Zehrs, and the two local Tim’s locations offering the purple and blue donuts that day.
After paying for materials, any remaining money that has been donated through the Purple Ribbon campaign will go towards the GoFundMe started by neighbour Steve Slack, with the goal of raising up to $50,000 as a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The campaign had raised over $21,000 at the time of writing.
Andrea is very thankful to Lafleur and all those who have helped keep her son’s name at the forefront: “The purpose behind the Purple Ribbon Campaign is to maintain awareness. To get information, to get someone to talk. It’s a small town. We know the names. We know who is behind it, but it’s getting that arrest and getting justice for Alex…. We’re trying to top up the GoFundMe to entice someone to turn someone in. It’s hard when you know the names and live with the nightmare of that night. We’re still reeling with the loss.”
Although Wayne felt immense gratitude for the outpouring of support, he is still processing what happened to his son. On the people involved in the death, he said, “They’re a bunch of cowards for leaving the scene…. Why did you do what you did? You left him for dead on the road. You ran…. I do believe they will get these people, but it’s been over a month and they’re still living their lives after leaving my son on the road to die.”
Lafleur added that everyone is heartbroken over Alex’s loss: “We’re trying to control outrage…. We want peace, and this helps us to bring peace.”
“I find myself at a loss for words. I came from a very strong family… it’s overwhelming, and so heartwarming to have the enormous love and support from everyone around us,” summed up Andrea. “I’m so proud of the man he was, that he left such a huge impact on everybody. He made friends really fast and once you were in his heart, he was there for you. That embodies how our family is.”