Cathy Kerr is a familiar sight for many in Bracebridge. She can be seen every day in front of the Norwood Theatre on Manitoba Street from 3 to 4 PM making sure every child crossing the road gets to the other side safely.

Wednesday is School Crossing Guard Day in Ontario. “Crossing guards are vital to the communities they work and serve in,” the Town of Bracebridge’s Chief By-Law Enforcement Officer Scott Stakiw says. “Not only do they ensure the safety of the children as they cross typically very busy roadways during the day coming and going to school, but they are also highly visible in the community.”

Kerr tells the newsroom she taught for about 30 years in York Region and Kingston. “(After retiring) I found myself with some extra time on my hands and missed that connection with the kids,” she says. The reason why Kerr moved to Bracebridge also has to do with kids: her grandchildren. She says one of her daughters lives in Bracebridge, so she moved her after retiring to be closer to her family. 

For Kerr, being a crossing guard is a “natural fit” because it goes back to one of the main factors that got her involved in teaching. “The safety and the protection and the guidance of the children,” she says. “It’s something I got out of teaching and it’s something that is also one of the big rewards of being a crossing guard.”

Stakiw says more often than not crossing guards are retired or semi-retired. “They’re looking to keep busy within the community,” he explains, pointing out they have to be committed to the job. “They only actually work two or three hours a day, but they have to be present in the community pretty much the whole day to make those shifts.”

“It’s always been something that I’ve thoroughly found enjoyable and energizing,” Kerr says about being around children. “Just every aspect of it.”

She says it’s also nice staying connected with the community. “It’s a real sense of purpose and a real sense of community to be out there every day not only with the kids but also just in the community,” Kerr says. 

“I know all of the children’s names, I know their dog’s names, I know some of the parents, I know their little siblings, and I know their older siblings,” Kerr says. Despite talking to her by phone, it’s easy to sense how passionate she is about being a crossing guard, and how proud she is of the connection she makes with children. “Quite often we just have a short little chat about how was your day, how was your weekend,” she adds. Kerr says she’s also made a point to find out their birthdays and will always have a small gift for them when the day comes. “I think there’s a real connection there,” she says.

Since she gets to know them so well, Kerr says she feels a sense of responsibility. “And primarily that’s what I’m there for: to make sure that they are safe,” she points out. 

Kerr says she’s served as a crossing guard full-time for two years now. She says she has “many many” favourite memories, but the one that immediately comes to mind is when a boy brought her a present. “He had made the most beautiful, beautiful card for me with a mountain and a sunset and inside he had attached a teabag and thanked me for keeping him safe and smiling every day,” she says. “That was just a special moment.”

Stakiw says crossing guards will always be important to the community. On top of the connection they make with children, they serve as a reminder to drivers to be careful. He adds that crossing guards get to know the kids and parents and become “trusted members” of the community. “They are certainly appreciated by not only the town but all members of the community,” Stakiw says.