Al Leonardi was shocked to learn that he was named along with three other people as Canada’s favourite crossing guard.
Leonardi found out about the honour on Dec. 17 while manning his post at St. Martin’s School when a group of children and teachers brought him the news along with handmade cards saying bravo on them.
“I never even thought there was a chance when there are three people across Canada,” said Leonardi, while on the job at Mary Street West and Edward St. South.
The award came from Parachute, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention along with FedEx Canada.
“I am pretty excited and I know the school kids are excited too,” added Leonardi, inbetween safely escorting children across the busy intersection.
Even Leonardi’s 88-year-old mother was “over the moon” about the award.
Leonardi started working as a crossing guard in 2017 and has been a colourful fixture around St. Martin’s School, decorating his crossing guard hut to keep with the season and special events.
“Everybody likes my decorating and they comment on it,” said Leonardi, as passing motorists honked and waved.
Crossing guards Bill Conway from St. John’s, N.L., and Terrence Pitts from Surrey, B.C., also received the honour.
The winners each received a trophy and $500 — the schools they serve also received $500.
Michelle Riemer, field supervisor of crossing guards for the City of Thunder Bay, also called the news exciting.
“Parachute does this every year and I try to let the schools know they can nominate a cross guard and they can win a prize as well but this is the first time that we have,” said Riemer.
“It has been such a weird year and to end off the year on this great positive note is amazing . . . and people just drive by to see what he has done for the season,” added Riemer.
Crossing guards have seen so much distracted driving that Riemer said this is a good reminder for motorists to pay attention and slow down in the school zones.
Parachute received 56 nominations from across the country and a panel of judges score the crossing guards for the level of support they received, safety records, proactive initiatives and the level of community involvement.