Thunder Bay, Ont., man named one of Canada's favourite crossing guards
Alan Leonardi one of three recipients of 2020 award
A Thunder Bay crossing guard's dedication to keeping the children and adults at a south-side school safe has earned him national recognition.
Alan Leonardi has been named one of the Canada's favourite crossing guards. And he's one of just three crossing guards in the country to receive the recognition this year.
Leonardi found out he'd won the prize last week, as he arrived at his crossing guard hut for an afternoon shift and saw a group of students and teachers walking toward him.
"I thought they were just out for an excursion or whatever," he said. "And then they stopped and said to me 'congratulations, you won!'"
They presented him with a trophy, and the students gave him pieces of paper with the word "bravo" written on them, Leonardi said with a laugh.
"I was pretty shocked and excited," he said. "I'd never thought that I'd win it, because it's all across Canada."
Leonardi made sure to call his mother as soon as he found out he was one of this year's three.
"She was over the moon that I'd won it," he said.
Parachute's website notes Leonardi is always smiling as he helps children and adults cross the street safely at St. Martin Elementary School.
And every year, he decorates his crossing guard hut.
Leonardi said those decorations were more important than usual in 2020.
"It's been such a sad year for everybody, so I tried to pick as many bright colours as I could just to brighten it up," he said. "I usually get the kids to help me do it, but with [COVID-19] I couldn't."
Leonardi became a crossing guard in 2017.
"I was retired, needed something to do," he said. "I wanted to do something that I could have fun at, and be outside, and have the summer off."
"But I didn't think I'd have this much fun at it," Leonardi said. "I get to meet a lot of people that I would never meet if I wasn't doing this job."
"As long as I'm healthy, I'll do it."
Leonardi's win in the contest - which is run by Canadian injury-prevention charity Parachute - earned him, and St. Martin, $500 each.
"It's going to be a different Christmas now," he said.