Breakfast in boy's memory raises thousands of dollars Money goes towards scholarship honouring drowning victim Birunthan Muralidaran!- MIKE ADLER -
They weren't just there for the hash browns and eggs. Diners who
packed the Markham Station Restaurant on Friday morning came to
the family of Birunthan Muralidaran and preserve the memory of the
boy and his heroic act.
Just 11, Birunthan died Dec. 10 trying to save a friend, Kishoban
Alakewaran, 15, who fell through thin ice covering a stormwater
pond in their
Morningside Heights neighbourhood. Kishoban died on Dec. 16 after
being taken off life support.
Those attending Friday's breakfast were starting a scholarship
fund in Birunthan's name. They included the boy's family, friends
and many of
the police officers and firefighters who braved the ice and cold
water trying to save both boys.
Besides donations from diners, the restaurant gave $2,000 and owner John Psihopedas and his partners $1,000 of their own. All 55 restaurant
employees gave five hours of their pay, which Psihopedas said would come to $2,400.
"We like to help the community," he said, noting two years ago Markham Station collected $10,000 for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children the
Ward 42 Councillor Raymond Cho (Scarborough-Rouge River) also gave the scholarship fund $1,000, a portion of the nine-per-cent pay raise
for councillors approved last year.
He figured the breakfasts raise around $7,000 in all. "Some people just put $50, $20, $5," said Cho. "I'm expecting at least $2,000 in that
Police from 42 Division, close by Milner Avenue, are supporting a formal recognition of the boy's heroism, said Insp. Dave Brown. "Even though
this boy is no longer here in some way he's going to continue to help people," he said of the scholarship. "In a tragic event like this there's
a connection that everybody feels."
Kumar Nandakumaran, known as Nanda Rajendram, employs Birunthan's father Muralidaran Nadarajah at his business, publishing a directory
called Amidst Tamils.
It was there Nadarajah received the call Dec. 10 informing him his son was at a local stormwater pond and was "missing."
"I said, We'll take my jeep and we'll go. It's close to the house," said Rajendram, recalling Nadarajah jumped over a fence and the two men
reached the scene just as a rescue helicopter was taking off.
Rajendram went back to the family's house and comforted the Nadarajah's younger son and daughter before going to the mortuary to view
A soccer player himself back in Sri Lanka, he had watched Birunthan play, admiring his passing game and ability to score. "He used to come
to my house all the time," Rajendram said. "I felt so bad. Still, I'm upset."
Nadarajah is a devoted father left devastated by his son's death, added the publisher, who dismissed allegations of Nadarajah's past ties with
the banned Tamil Tigers rebel group - the reason Birunthan's surviving family all face deportation after a failed refugee bid - as "media
Asked how should people honour the boy, Rajendram turned his head toward a poster on the restaurant wall that showed Birunthan in his
soccer uniform and nodded approvingly. "He's a hero. He was."
Cho also offered diners the chance to sign a petition supporting the family's desire to stay in Canada. "We strongly believe that they should be
granted status as landed immigrants," it reads.
Usha Heer, a Morningside Heights resident, said her daughter is raising money to put safety equipment around the pond at Morningside and
Old Finch avenues.
This month, Toronto Water spokesperson Diane Chester said city staff understood the pond had three sets of lifesaving equipment positioned
around it. Each set had a life ring, a rope and a pole with a shepherd's hook.
Maintaining the equipment is not the city's responsibility since the pond has not yet been handed over to the city, Chester said. She said that
when staff inspected the pond after the accident, they discovered one set of safety equipment was missing and one was lying on the ground.
The pond was not fenced because the slopes around it weren't steep enough to require it, she said.
Heer, who lives near the pond and often walks family dog there, said she's never seen a safety ring, pole or other lifesaving equipment. "We
don't want this thing to happen again to any of our kids in the future," she said.
Cho has said some of those involved in the fundraising will be part of a foundation that guides the scholarship. On Friday, John Paterson,
owner of Paterson's Food Basics, gave the fund a cheque for $500, having given pre-paid breakfast vouchers to shoppers who bought at least
$100 in groceries on the previous three days.
Paterson said he hoped the scholarship goes to a child from Birunthan's Thomas L. Wells Public School who shows the most outgoing
personality and community spirit. "Sometimes it's not all about the marks. It's about being a good person."
Scarborough Mirror: http://www.insidetoronto.ca/to/scarborough/story/3827604p-4428288c.html?loc=scarborough
[If anyone is unable to attend the breakfast
and is still wanting to make a donation towards the Scholarship
Trust Fund they could contact
Councillor Raymond Cho's office at 416-392-4078.]