The District of Muskoka is honouring the memory of a Gravenhurst teenager.
The Home for Good Facility in Bracebridge will be renamed “Alex’s Place” after Alex Kerswell, who died of suicide in 2019 at the age of 17.
The facility offers 12 transitional housing units, as well as skill-building programs, for those aged 16 to 24 who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
The name change was approved unanimously by District Council at its regular meeting on Monday. As was a motion to bump up the vote, allowing Alex’s parents Leanna and Shawn Kerswell to be present.
“Alex was a young man experiencing mental health issues, and their family was unable to get the health that they needed,” said District Chair John Klinck to council. “Leanna and Shawn, and of course their son Chris, really want to make sure that Alex is not forgotten.”
The Kerswells, who both work at the district, had started the Legacy for Alex Memorial Bursary to help teens graduating from Gravenhurst High School who have overcome adversity. They also operate a Facebook group by the same name, which provides a forum to discuss mental health.
Klinck thanked the Kerswells for the work they do, and also thanked district staff for the idea of renaming the facility.
“I can say on behalf of our community Gravenhurst, that this is an incredible acknowledgement of Alex,” said Paul Kelly, Mayor of Gravenhurst, to the Kerswells. “But it’s also an acknowledgement of both of [you], who have not just walked away from this but have kept his memory alive by constantly reminding people about the challenges that everyone faces.”
The Kerswells then thanked council and staff for the decision.
“So many youth in our community are struggling like Alex, and it’s great to know that there are now housing and supports available to youth in Muskoka. From the bottom of our heart, thank you for the honour of naming this program after our son,” said an emotional Leanna. “May his memory continue to live on, and may this program and the charity that we’ve initiated in his name improve the outcomes for other youth. Alex will not be forgotten, and we are so appreciative to the district for this initiative.”
Alex’s Place opened to tenants last month.