Parking ticket dad: 'Erica was my teacher'

A grieving father from Carbonear who made headlines back in June when he pushed back against parking fines at a St. John's hospital is passing along to others what his toddler taught him.

Father hit with parking tickets while daughter was dying says issue 'not about money'

Robert Thornhill says his fight over parking tickets was about ethics, not money, reports Ariana Kelland 2:46

A grieving father from Carbonear who made headlines back in June when he pushed back against paid parking at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, is passing along to others what his toddler taught him.

Robert Thornhill and his wife spent 12 gruelling months with their daughter Erica, 3, while she was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia in hospitals in St. John's and Toronto.

Robert Thornhill says that his family is trying to look at the positive things in life, and speaking to students at high schools about positivity. (CBC)

Erica passed away in August after a year-long battle with cancer.

"[Erica] wouldn't want me or my wife to be sat in the corner crying, while that is valid for some people," Thornhill told CBC News.

"I don't feel personally that I want to live that life, I want to go out and spread the happiness she gave me."

Not about money

Thornhill was hit with hundreds of parking tickets during his daughter's stay at the Janeway children's hospital, which is part of the Health Sciences Centre. 

The ticketing, which Thornhill said is a contentious issue for long-term patients at the hospital, reached a breaking point in June when he posted a sign in his windshield directed at security officers.

He posted a picture of the sign on Facebook, which was widely shared on the social media site.

"Lots of people came forward and said that they wanted to pay our tickets. I'm grateful that they wanted to do that, but that's not what it's about," Thornhill said.

"I paid the tickets. It's not about money — it's about ethics."

The hospital gave Thornhill a plastic card which would give him access to a nearby parking lot after CBC carried his story.

Robert Thornhill posted this sign in his windshield after receiving over 100 parking tickets while his daughter was terminally ill at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's. (CBC)

"I ended up taking the card and giving it to someone who was there for ten months and didn't get anything because they didn't speak up," Thornhill said.

"What makes me any different than the person in the room next to me?"

'Erica was my teacher'

Since his toddler's death, Thornhill has been going to local high schools to speak to students about being positive, and the importance of looking for the good in life.

"We are trying to find the positives. They're all around you if you want to see them," Thornhill said.

"I [keep] telling people, I was Erica's father, but Erica was my teacher. She taught me to see life in a positive way."

Thornhill said his views on positive thinking grew even stronger when he received an overwhelming amount of support after his story aired on CBC, and following Erica's death.

"We would not have made it through this without the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I can't stress that enough," Thornhill said.

"I said it at the funeral, when I went up and spoke, and that's the true story of it. You're going to have some people saying negative things, but that's OK."


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