Beloved Fredericton man named one of Canada's favourite crossing guards
'They could pay me a million dollars an hour… it could never replace that kind of thanks from these kids.'
The corner of Fredericton's Connaught and Smythe streets has always been a popular spot for Brian Smith.
There, he can be seen waving to drivers, chatting with pedestrians and, most importantly, helping kids safely cross the street to Connaught Street School.
"It's become a very familiar corner," said Smith, who sports a bright orange vest and carries a large stop sign to halt traffic.
The 64-year-old is one of three winners of Canada's Favourite Crossing Guard contest, a national contest put on by FedEx Express Canada and Parachute, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing injuries.
The contest, which has been running since 2005, honours exceptional school crossing guards who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Smith's name was put forward this year by a parent at Connaught Street School. The decision was also supported by many other parents at the Fredericton elementary school.
Last week, Smith was at the movie theatre checking his phone for emails when he discovered he and two other individuals from Ontario receveid the honour.
'Just an honour'
Inside the theatre, Smith said he was in disbelief.
"All my wife heard was, 'I don't believe it,'" said Smith.
When he was showing the email to his wife, Louise McSheffrey, he couldn't help but feel overwhelmed and humbled by the nomination.
"Just an honour is the best way I can describe the feeling that came along with it," he said.
The Fredericton native has been a crossing guard for the past five years. He was also a crossing guard many years ago at Park Street School on the city's north side, where his wife is currently working as a crossing guard at Maple Street and MacDonald Avenue.
"I wanted something different, just as a break," said Smith, who also runs a hot tub business on the side. "This seemed to fit the bill."
He's spent many school days listening to jokes and sharing stories with the 40 kids who cross his crosswalk.
"There's nothing better than to have one of the kids come down the street or across the crosswalk and then give you a great big hug. And then off to school they go," he said.
"They could pay me a million dollars an hour… it could never replace that kind of thanks from these kids."
Names and birthdays are a must
Smith tries to remember every child by their first name and their birthday. And during holidays, he offers students treat bags put together by his wife.
He said it's important to build a relationship with kids, because you never know which one of them is going to discover the cure for cancer or become the next prime minister of Canada.
Every kid I've got is special-Brian Smith, crossing guard
"It's just one little extra thing we can do to make their day special," he said. "Who knows what these kids are going to grow up to be?"
The crossing guard has also been told he's a daily highlight for some kids. One child in particular says he can't wait to start kindergarten in two years "so he can see Brian every day."
"It feels so good to be out here and make people's days," he said. "If I can make somebody smile, what better?"
It's also a job he doesn't take lightly.
Drivers don't pay attention
He said there's lots of traffic that goes through the area every day. At times, drivers aren't paying attention because they're on their phones. And come winter, roads are icy so drivers can't stop.
He said during some months he's almost struck by a vehicle at least once a week.
"It can be a little scary, but it's part of the job," he said. "You have to be alert, you have to have, literally, almost eyes in the back of your head."
And while most drivers are courteous and patient, Smith has also seen his fair share of road rage.
According to New Brunswick's Motor Vehicle Act, a driver must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian using a cross walk. If they don't, drivers can receive a minimum fine of $172.50, and that's doubled in school zones.
"I had one gentleman who rolled his window down one day and went up one side of me and down the other," he said. "He felt I had no right to stop him."
Each winner's school will receive $500 from FedEx Express Canada. Smith will also be receiving $500 for his award, money which he will be donating back to Park Street School, where his granddaughter goes to school.
Smith said it's important to give back to children living in his community.
"Every kid I've got is special," he said.
With files from Information Morning Fredericton