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VIDEO: 'In my eyes she was a hero': Glace Bay school honours former student


GLACE BAY, N.S. —

The kindness and compassion of a young girl inspired teachers at her former school in such a way they plan to carry her message forward forever. 

Leigh-Anne Cox died on June 5, 2020, at age 14, following a long and courageous battle with cancer.

“She was special,” said Diane McNeil, a Grade 8 teacher at the school, who became emotional while trying to get her words out. “Even in her most trying times – when you’d run into her or see her – she was happy, her eyes always sparkly and with a beautiful smile. She’s the kindest person you’d ever meet.”

In fact, teachers at the school were so inspired by Leigh-Anne that a special ceremony is being held Thursday to dedicate a bench placed in a little park area created in her memory.

School guidance counsellor Tina Kennedy-Lohnes said it’s going to be emotional and has been preparing for it. 

“Leigh-Anne was always so positive with everything she went through, her focus was always on everyone else,” Kennedy-Lohnes said adding the young student merely wanted to be with her friends, to be like everyone else. 

Teachers at Oceanview Education Centre in Glace Bay including from left, Tina Kennedy-Lohnes, guidance counsellor, Diane McNeil, Rose Abraham, April Parsons, and Grade 8 student Jaime Paige Parsons, reflect by a bench which will be dedicated to the late Leigh-Anne Cox, a former student at the school, during a ceremony at the school on Thursday. Leigh-Anne, who died in June after a courageous battle with cancer, inspired so many people at the school the teachers formed a ‘Bee Kind’ committee and built a little park to carry on the kindness and compassion for others she was noted for, on at the school forever. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
Teachers at Oceanview Education Centre in Glace Bay including from left, Tina Kennedy-Lohnes, guidance counsellor, Diane McNeil, Rose Abraham, April Parsons, and Grade 8 student Jaime Paige Parsons, reflect by a bench which will be dedicated to the late Leigh-Anne Cox, a former student at the school, during a ceremony at the school on Thursday. Leigh-Anne, who died in June after a courageous battle with cancer, inspired so many people at the school the teachers formed a ‘Bee Kind’ committee and built a little park to carry on the kindness and compassion for others she was noted for, on at the school forever. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post

“She didn’t want to stand out but the irony is that she did standout as she was so inspirational in a quiet way,” she said. “Her strength, compassion and love for all beings, especially those animals, plants and people in need, largely defined who she was.” 

Kennedy-Lohnes said Leigh-Anne never focused on her own problems and issues. Instead, she cared deeply about how her illness was affecting others including her family, her friends and even her teachers.

As a result, the staff formed a "Bee Kind committee" to honour Leigh-Anne because she touched their lives in a way no other student has. 

The "Bee" in Bee Kind is to represent bumblebees which Leigh-Anne adored. 

“She left an area in her yard uncut to allow the bees a place to get their food and live,” Kennedy-Lohnes said. 

A park area was created in Leigh-Anne’s name. The area includes a flowering crab tree — to attract bees — and a cedar bench to become an area of peace and beauty, close to nature where students could sit and reflect or sit and get support if they were having a hard day. 

“Teachers will take their students outside and educate them about nature, kindness and compassion in the name of our young hero, Leigh-Anne Cox,” Kennedy-Lohnes said. “Students will paint rocks with positive  messages of hope and kindness as the months and years go on.” 

Thursday will be an emotional day.

 “I will be spending time reflecting,” she added.

Oceanview Education Centre guidance counsellor Tina Kennedy-Lohnes holds a rock the late Leigh-Anne Cox, a former student at the school, had painted. The rock has been placed in a special park area built in Leigh-Anne’s memory at the school. Students will be painting rocks to help carry on her inspirational messages. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
Oceanview Education Centre guidance counsellor Tina Kennedy-Lohnes holds a rock the late Leigh-Anne Cox, a former student at the school, had painted. The rock has been placed in a special park area built in Leigh-Anne’s memory at the school. Students will be painting rocks to help carry on her inspirational messages. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post

NOTED FOR HER KIND NATURE

April Parsons, a Grade 8 teacher, taught Leigh-Anne when she in Grade 6 before she was diagnosed with cancer. Parsons said Leigh-Anne’s kind, carrying nature always stood out.

There was an incident at the school where a student was being bullied by six older students. Parsons said Leigh-Anne came and told her about it and felt bad for that student. 

“That was the type of person that she was,” she said. “These kids were older, but she still felt strong enough to come and do that. That was amazing.”

Parsons said Leigh-Anne never broadcasted her troubles and she kept everything inside.

On the outside, she was always smiling, no matter what she was going through.”

A special area in a little park built in memory of Leigh-Anne Cox at Oceanview Education Centre in Glace Bay. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
A special area in a little park built in memory of Leigh-Anne Cox at Oceanview Education Centre in Glace Bay. Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post

The bench will always be a reminder of how she touched everyone’s lives.

“We can look out the window and see it and it will remind us what she was going through,” Parsons said, adding it will remind them they can also get through anything.  “She was always so positive.”

To Jaime Paige Parsons, a Grade 8 student at OVEC, Leigh-Anne was a hero. 

“I wrote about her in Grade 6,” she said. “We were writing about child heroes and I decided to do Leigh-Anne because she always inspired other people and gave them hope.”

Parsons said despite what Leigh-Anne was going through, she was a fighter and never gave up hope. 

“In my eyes, she was a hero.”

The late Leigh-Anne Cox will be honoured during a special ceremony Thursday to dedicate a bench placed in a little park area created in her memory.
The late Leigh-Anne Cox will be honoured during a special ceremony Thursday to dedicate a bench placed in a little park area created in her memory.

LEIGH-ANNE COX

Leigh-Anne was noted for her love of music, animals, and described as ‘an old soul who adored anything antique.’ She loved her Grandma’s spaghetti, her dad’s carbonara, taekwondo and had been a swimmer, a ballerina and a gymnast. 

Hearing how inspired others are about Leigh-Anne wasn’t a surprise to her mother Adele Cox. 

“She was amazing,” Adele said. “She touched a lot of people.”

Adele said her daughter’s compassion extended to all living things. If they bought a plant it had to be one needed to be loved back to life.

“She was just an incredible human being and I was lucky enough to be her mom.”

Adele said they were shocked to hear about the park that was built in memory of their daughter and grateful they are going out of their way to do that for their girl.

“So many people came together to do something so beautiful.”

Glace Bay High School student Kindra Kaiser knew Leigh-Anne in elementary school and in middle school they connected again and were ‘bound at the hip.’ 

“Even before we became close friends, she was always so helpful and kind,” she said. “I remember the time she helped me when I dropped all my stuff in the middle of the hallway, even though we were already late to class. She made such an impression on me, lending me an ear when something bothered me, helped me learn to be more self-loving and social.” 

Katie Fiore, also a student at GBHS, said Leigh-Anne impacted her in a major way.

“She taught me to be myself, that everyone is different but so special in their own way,” she said. “She taught me to dream, not to worry about the little things, to make a goal and to know that nothing is out of reach.”

Sharon-Montgomery-Dupe is the enterprise reporter at the Cape Breton Post. 

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