They were only three shovels of dirt tossed onto the parking lot of a former civic arena, but they mark the next stage of hope for men struggling with addiction.
The shovels were used by Scott Oake, his wife Anne, and son Darcy, for the ceremonial groundbreaking and capital campaign launch for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre on Thursday.
Poignantly, the groundbreaking was held on what would have been Bruce Oake's 34th birthday. He died of a heroin overdose on March 28, 2011.
"I don't think Bruce ever anticipated this would be his legacy," Scott Oake said after the ceremonies were completed.
"He was a beautiful boy. But what our family knows is addiction knows no boundaries and doesn't discriminate... one of our sons is an international star while the other loses his life to addiction."
Oake said he knows that on the day the centre opens — he says the target date is March 2021, but it could be sooner — all 50 beds will be filled and they will have an immediate waiting list.
"He was a beautiful boy. But what our family knows is addiction knows no boundaries and doesn't discriminate... one of our sons is an international star while the other loses his life to addiction." – Scott Oake on his late son Bruce's addiction
"In 2017, there were 169 fentanyl opioid-related deaths in Manitoba — that's almost one every two days... people who come here seeking recovery will be able to stay as long as it takes to make things right. We will offer long term recovery at no cost to those who can't afford it — no one will be turned away.
"This will be a game changer for addiction treatment."
And Oake, acknowledging that many residents in the St. James community near the former Vimy Arena were against either the idea of people with addictions being treated in their neighbourhood or wanted the property to be renovated and used for recreation, said they have nothing to fear.
"They will be good neighbours," he said.
St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham, who also acknowledged the tough battle the Oakes faced to get the treatment centre approved for the site, said "let me be clear, addicts seeking recovery here are welcome in our community."
Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson, who was an emergency room doctor for years before his election four years ago, said he has had to help many people suffering from drug overdoses.
"I lost count of the number of patients I revived suffering overdoses and, tragically, the many I couldn't revive," Eyolfson said.
"Bruce's story is not over. Because of his family, his memory and legacy will continue in a way which will save lives."
Meanwhile, Oake also gave thanks to Bonnie and John Buhler, who donated $2 million to the cause at a fundraiser held on Wednesday, and the Edwards family with WGI Westman Group, which contributed another $1 million at the event. The event, hosted by Jann Arden and Ron MacLean, also raised another $500,000.
The donations and fundraising have brought the Bruce Oake Memorial Foundation's capital campaign to $11.5 million of its $16 million goal.
"The finish line is in sight," Oake said.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.