Tragedy support group initiated in Armstrong

Armstrong’s Okanagan Boys and Girls Club has asked city council for support in forming a group it hopes will never have to be used.

Armstrong’s Okanagan Boys and Girls Club has asked city council for support in forming a group it hopes will never have to be used.

Club directors Jack Whelpley and Merran Davies hope to form a group that can help the community deal with an unfathomable tragedy such as the one that occurred Halloween night, when 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest was found assaulted and seriously injured near the Rosedale Avenue railroad tracks.

Van Diest died that night in Kelowna hospital, and her death remains an unsolved homicide.

“The entire community has been impacted by what happened,” said Whelpley. “It left a lot of people trying to cope, trying to figure out what we can do in a situation like this.”

While plans have been made for any number of contingencies or emergencies, murder is one thing there was no plan for, said Whelpley, adding the Boys and Girls Club is one of the most logical social agencies within the community to help spearhead an initiative to be better prepared should something like what happened Halloween night happen again.

“God forbid it does happen again,” said Whelpley.

The idea is to form a planning group made up of club directors, city council and North Okanagan-Shuswap School District officials, Interior Health and RCMP representatives, as well as the faith community, and develop an appropriate plan that is outside of any of the other types of services available in the community.

The Boys and Girls Club met with three different advisory groups in November and December: business advisory, student advisory and parent advisory asking questions in regards to the Halloween tragedy.

“We looked at the challenges and priorities, and what kind of resources might be available,” said Davies.

Among the suggestions were a town hall meeting to come together and debrief and ask questions, get some information on resources and share concerns.

“Others suggested more daytime activities, having more knowledge about what resources are available and support for the parents,” said Davies.

Whelpley said his agency saw counsellors who weren’t called in after the Van Diest homicide whose expertise could have been used.

“When the day comes when the individual (suspect) is caught, it will have another rippling effect through this community, and I’d like to see us better prepared if something like that happens again,” he said. “I hope it’s never used.”

Council unanimously supported a motion to have Armstrong staff work with the club in the formation of such a planning group.