Dysart et al will begin fundraising for two new murals on the A.J. LaRue Rrena which celebrate the achievements of Haliburton athletic heroes.

It’s the conclusion of a student-led fight for inclusion of Lesley Tashlin and Taly Williams, two athletes from Haliburton who achieved success at the national level.

Students from J.D. Hodgson Elementary School wrote a letter to Mayor Andrea Roberts in March 2021, explaining how the accomplishments of the siblings, who are Black, merited a spot on the arena’s wall of murals.

“I feel a lot of pride, in terms of our school and in terms of our community,” said Mike van den Hengel, a teacher at J.D.H. and member of the sub-committee which developed the guidelines through the cultural resources committee.

On June 22, council accepted a report from the committee, which included two students. The finalized report seeks to “remove any barriers to inclusion” on the mural wall. That includes formalized criteria for athlete selection and their connection to the community.

Marina Thomazo, the teacher whose class began the effort to recognize the two athletes, said the resolution also was a recognition of the students’ hard work.

“It’s because there were hurdles – that’s when the resilience kicked in,” Thomazo said. “It’s the hurdles that led the class to something more rewarding at the end.”

Principal David Waito said he was proud of the way students pushed for change, but the focus is on the future: two athletic heroes will be properly recognized.

“It’s important to remember this is about Taly [Williams] and Lesley [Tashlin], to remind us of what role models they are,” Waito said. “Beyond the athletic achievements that they have, they’re people that we all ought to look up to.”

In a video presented to council, students explained how they were inspired by the achievements of Williams and Tashlin.

Tashlin is the first Haliburton resident to compete for Canada, entering the 100-metre hurdles and 4 x 100 metre relay race at the 1996 Olympics. Williams played defense for the Toronto Argonauts and Hamiliton Tiger Cats from 1994-1996. They both broke multiple sporting records at HHSS.

Jim Blake, chair of the cultural resources committee, explained how both athletes met “all of the criteria” that the committee established for inclusion on the arena’s wall.

“Given that these individuals are and were eminently qualified to be honoured as sports heroes on the mural wall,” Blake said, “it was recommended that they be immediately approved for recognition on the mural wall.”

Roberts said she was impressed with the speed at which the committee returned to council with a full report and recommendations.

“This has been well thought out, well talked about and taken extremely seriously,” Roberts said. She also thanked the Grade 7 and 8 students who jumpstarted the process.

“We are righting a wrong that was overlooked,” Roberts said.

Across Canada, the story made waves with athletes and athletic news outlets. Former CFL star Pinball Clemons wrote a letter in support of the students’ campaign, and in May, Athletics Canada published an article about the effort.

Currently, all athletes depicted on the arena are white males: NHLers Bernie Nicholls, Ron Stackhouse, Matt Duchene, Cody Hodgson and CFLer Mike Bradley.

According to council, information about donations for the murals will be available to the public in the coming weeks.

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