Nfld. & Labrador

Shoal Harbour comes together to heal in wake of boy's death

Joshua Wilcox loved spending time near the gully where he died on Christmas Day. A group of Shoal Harbour residents have cleared a wooded area nearby where families have been spending time together, and helping each other deal with the tragic loss.

Project started as a way to get kids outside and ended helping an organizer to grieve

Joshua Wilcox is remembered as a kind boy who loved hockey. (Facebook)

A community group in Shoal Harbour is working on a project they hope will encourage residents to connect with nature, while remembering a boy who died tragically on Christmas Day.

Joshua Wilcox died after the off-road vehicle he was a passenger in broke through the ice on a small gully in the town. His father, who was driving the side-by-side, survived.

At the time of Joshua's death, a group called the Shoal Harbour Valley Cooperative had been working to establish a network of trails and a sledding hill around the same gully where he died. 

Organizer Lee Avery said the boy spent a lot of time there in the weeks before his death. 

"His mother had to come over and bring over his dinner and supper. He loved that place. You couldn't get him out of it," Avery said.

"He got up Christmas morning, and he had a brand new hockey stick. He just wanted to be there so bad. It was a tragedy the way it unfolded, unspeakable tragedy."

Avery said Wilcox's death left the entire community reeling, and kept many people away from the area for a time. But over the past few weeks, Shoal Harbour residents have been making their way back to the valley that Joshua loved. 

We want this area to be a place of happiness. We want this to help with the healing process.- Lee Avery

"We've cleared a large area — it's kind of like a natural bowl. It's good and sheltered, and you don't really get any wind," Avery said.

"The past three or four weekends we've been in there Friday nights and Saturday nights with the generator going and the lights on.… There's been a lot of kids enjoying it and a lot of families hanging out and socializing. Usually, we got the fire going. It's a real good thing we got going on in there."

Avery said working on the project helped him to deal with the shock of losing Joshua, and he hopes the sense of community will help others to heal as well. 

"If this little thing can create a little bit of happiness, and get people in and around the area again … then maybe it helps," he said.

"We want this area to be a place of happiness. We want this to help with the healing process. I hope in the future, we can memorialize Joshua's memory in here."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Gavin Simms