Support for first responders and a sense of bringing the community together - those are the stated goals of a series of socially-distanced Sunday salutes at Blondie’s Beach.
Residents at the cottage subdivision of Lake Athapap have come together each Sunday at noon, singing Oh Canada and banging pots and pans together to show support to health care workers.
The idea began with a group of residents of the Bakers Narrows cottage subdivision, taking inspiration from similar tributes across Canada.
"We just heard about all the tributes around the country, from east to west, honouring the frontline folks and employees. We thought it would be a good idea to get something going here," said Rob Schiefele, who would help organize later editions of the ceremony.
The tribute started with Susan and Brent Lethbridge, Blondie’s Beach residents, playing O Canada and singing songs from their home. Some of their neighbours joined in.
Schiefele heard about the tribute and wanted to get involved himself.
"I thought, 'Next Sunday, I'll get something organized properly,'" he said.
Schiefele called up the neighbours and other Blondie's Beach residents for a larger ceremony, gathering up people within walking distance of the area and maintaining social distance.
"I got a hold of as many people as possible and we did it again the next Sunday," Schiefele said.
At first, Schiefele said he started it as a friendly contest between residents of the east and west portions of Blondie’s Beach.
"The first Sunday, I threw it out there as a little competition," he said.
Since then, the ceremonies have become a way to gather together and maintain relationships while paying tribute to those spending time at the forefront of fighting the outbreak. Schiefele said there was a sense of community involved in each event.
"We've found that there were a few more people around. Everybody stood out on the road, but we all stood our distance. When we finished doing that, we were standing around there having a good chat. It just seemed to be cool to see other faces and chat with the neighbours, people who are two or three lots down," he said.
The tribute to first responders even reached some first responders themselves - members of the Cranberry Portage RCMP detachment, who attended one of the ceremonies.
"I happened to run into one of the RCMP members on a Saturday and he was asking us about it because he saw something about it on Facebook. He said, 'if we're not busy, we'll come out and join you.' So, they came out," Schiefele said.
"We just sing O Canada and bang some pots, make some noise and give a good cheer for all the good folks out there."
Each ceremony takes place at noon exactly on Sundays, in front of a Canadian flag hoisted in the eastern portion of Blondie’s Beach.
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