By Anne Russell
Mallory Manley and Glen Schwarzfeld of Chilliwack have lived through every parent’s worst nightmare.
Just over a year ago, they lost their son, Weston, in an accident while he was on a day-camp outing.
Weston had recently completed kindergarten and was excited about his upcoming sixth birthday.
There was a groundswell of community support after the fatal accident and lots of conversation on social media about setting up a GoFundMe campaign to support the family.
Manley works at the University of the Fraser Valley and Schwarzfeld is a teacher at Mt. Slesse middle school in Chilliwack and both had generous support from their employers.
“We didn’t need a lot of financial support from the community, but we also wanted to have some control over funds that were being raised in Weston’s name, so we allowed my sister to set up a GoFundMe page for us,” recalled Manley.
They used some of the funds raised for counselling, to hold a celebration of life for Weston, and to dedicate a commemorative picnic table in his favourite park in their Garrison Crossing neighbourhood.
But they decided to use the bulk of the funds received to create a memorial bursary in Weston’s name at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).
Starting in September 2022, UFV will award the $1,000 Weston Jay Manley Schwarzfeld Memorial Endowment Bursary to one student each year.
The award is open to all Canadian students at UFV, from all faculties and programs. Preference will be given to Indigenous students or students who are parents with dependent children.
“Weston was a kind, loving, and joyful boy,” Manley said. “We wanted to establish something in his name to keep his memory alive, something in the spirit of helping others that reflected our family’s core values.”
They chose to focus the award criteria to prefer Indigenous students or students who are parents as a reflection of those core values.
“We are very aware that we’re living on the unceded land of the Stó:lō people,” Manley said. “Weston knew that too and was learning Halq’emeylem words in kindergarten.”
And Manley, whose current job is in the student support field, also wanted to help students who are parents after being inspired by so many of the students she works with at UFV.
“I am amazed by the dedication of any parent who pursues post-secondary education while still raising children at home. I’ve been impressed and inspired by so many of them. Even if you have a partner at home to support you, it’s an enormous challenge to balance university studies and family life.”
A year into their life without Weston, Manley and Schwarzfeld are still grieving for their son and missing him every minute, while raising their daughter June, who is now two. It’s hard to talk about losing Weston. But they wanted to express their gratitude to the community for supporting them.
“We are very grateful to the community for supporting us during this very difficult time, and to the University of the Fraser Valley for working with us to set up this memorial bursary.”
To donate to the Weston Jay Manley Schwarzfeld Memorial Endowment Bursary go to connect.ufv.ca/manley.