Monday, January 7, 2013

Noelle's Gift honours the spirit of slain kindergarten teacher

Noelle Paquette was a substitute kindergarten teacher in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. A graduate of the University of Ottawa and Nipissing University, she was a close friend of a coworker and a former coworker of mine. Last week, through those connections, I received a desperate plea to share a "missing person" story. It was Noelle. She had left a New Year's Eve party alone, and had not been seen again.

Via Facebook
In the days that followed, the worst nightmare of any parent — or friend — unfolded. Sarnia police announced that Noelle had been found. Then that a body had been found. Then the body was identified as Noelle. And with a rapidness that surprised everyone following the case, two people were arrested almost immediately and charged with her murder.

There is a lot of rumour and speculation about this case, specifically about the motives. But it appears that this young woman, said to be beloved of students and certainly by friends, was targeted for no reason other than being momentarily vulnerable.

Noelle's friends, however, want her to be remembered "for the woman she was and not for the way she died." As some of them work in advertising and the not-for-profit sector, it was natural that they branded and launched an online appeal in Noelle's memory.


After returning to her hometown of Sarnia for a teaching job covering a maternity leave, Noelle "immediately made an impact... taking it upon herself to go above and beyond her assigned duties," according to the memorial site, "She was passionate about helping students grow and ensuring they were able to have a positive experience, often supplying meals, classroom supplies, and clothing to those students in need."

And Noelle, in spirit, will continue that commitment to Sarnia's students in needs. The fundraising site is structured to allow donors to provide children with gifts in $5, $10 and $20 packages, providing classroom supplies, nutritious meals and clothing, respectively. Funds are managed by the Paquette family.

The site also links to the Facebook page, Prayers For Noelle Marie Paquette.

I asked my friends if there was anything to do to help them deal with their loss. The obvious answer was to try to share Noelle's memory and this cause, which was closest to her heart. Please pass it on.

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