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New school gym set to honour local hero

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The new gymnasium at Queenston School will be named in memory of Winnipegger Sheilah Sweatman.


Working with Winnipeg School Division, the Queenston School Gym Committee recently announced the new facility — which is slated to open in September 2013 — will honour the River Heights-raised Sweatman, a volunteer search-and-rescue worker who drowned last summer at the age of 29 during a recovery attempt in southern B.C.


Colleen McFadden, the committee’s chair, described Sweatman — who did not attend the school — as an outstanding student, athlete, artist, and community volunteer dedicated to serving others and who will be a role model for future generations.


"Naming the gym in Sheilah’s honour will provide our students and young people with inspirational messages of community service and living life to the fullest," McFadden said. "She was such a mentor; this is such a good fit. I feel it in my heart."


In a news release, Sheilah’s father, Wynn, said the family is moved by the tribute and thankful to organizers for honouring his daughter’s memory.


In April, the committee launched a fundraising campaign to raise $450,000 before June 30 to ensure the new gym meets the needs of a larger community of more than 34,000 and be available for use during evenings and weekends.


The committee has currently raised 25% of its target and McFadden — who has two daughters currently at the school — said the committee has been working hard within "such aggressive timelines" and hopes business and corporate sponsors, as well as parents and area residents, will continue to show their support.


At the end of June, key stakeholders including school division officials and trustees will "decide where we’re at and if we can move ahead," McFadden said, stressing the province has committed to funding a 4,000-sq. ft. gym, but additional space is needed for things such as extra storage space.


She said the naming of the gym comes at no financial cost.


"There was no donation," McFadden said. "It’s not the typical naming of a corporate building."


Jim Carson, general manager of Central Corydon Community Centre (C4), said past concerns about school facilities offering limited public availability should be negated by a unique agreement.


"Unlike a joint use agreement, or a permit basis, the school will get priority use and the community second priority. This is so new, there’s really no model, so it’s exciting and fresh," Carson said. "This is a win-win situation for the community. It will be completely different."


A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Sweatman was an accomplished artist with a growing reputation for her unique and creative style.


On June 29 of 2011, while on a recovery mission on Goat River near Creston, B.C., Sweatman was dragged overboard into fast-moving water and became entangled by cables being used in the mission. No one was able to reach her.


For more information, or to contribute to the gym project, visit blogs.wsd1.org/queenston.

simon.fuller@canstarnews.com

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