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Edmonton elementary school unveils buddy benches in tribute to students who recently died

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An Edmonton elementary school is paying tribute to students who died this year.

Three children who attended Crawford Plains have died in the past year, and two buddy benches in their honour were unveiled Saturday.

"Last year was certainly a tragic year for Crawford plains," said the school's former principal, Lisa Nachtigal.

"But it really gave us the opportunity to come together as a whole school community and rally around each other, pull together as a family and support one another."

Buddy benches are a way for people to connect and find friendship. Sitting on one signals to other people that you're wanting someone to talk to or play with, Nachtigal said.

"We thought it was a perfect way to honour our friends that were always wanting to be everybody else's friend," she added.

One bench is engraved with the names of grade 1 students Karter and Lucas.

"They'd been best friends since [before] they were even in school and just tragic events this year, where we lost both of them, we want to keep them together and we want to celebrate that friendship that they had," Nachtigal said.

Six-year-old Karter Bourgeault died in July, after a nearly year-long battle with an inoperable brain tumour.

Karter's parents launched an annual memorial ride in their son's honour Saturday, starting at the school where his bench was unveiled.

"He fought hard. He wanted to bring awareness to this so nobody else had to go through it, so we're going to keep that going for him," said Karter's mom, Nicole Fraser.

The second bench is engraved with the name Jayden. The grade 6 student and his mother were stabbed and killed outside the school in May.

"I'm so so proud of the students at our school. We've gone through some of the hardest things life has thrown at you, and they just kept showing up," said Lisa Nachtigal, former Crawford Plains principal.

"We're recognizing them and how important they were to the school, the kids, all of us, the community," said Karter's mom. 

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