Story of a life taken too soon may save others

Ashley Thompson
Published on July 12, 2012

Charlie Lahey hopes memorial signage at the entrance of soccer fields renamed in honour of his late son will send a clear message to drunk drivers.

“Our hope and our prayer is that this sign helps us all stand together and… say ‘Enough,’” the Brooklyn resident announced, speaking on behalf of his family at the June 30 ceremony celebrating the renaming of the Irishman’s Road Recreation Site to the Ryan Lahey MemorialSoccer Fields.

“Enough of this — we don’t need, and we don’t want, to lose another person… because of the careless actions of someone driving under the influence.”

Ryan, an industrial mechanic, was a skilled athlete who excelled at most sports, but soccer was his passion. He was known for flicking the ball in the air with his feet and catching it between his shoulder blades — a move West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee promised not to attempt after he presented a speech at the renaming ceremony.

Instead, Dauphinee stuck with a traditional podium address, and said all of the Municipality of the District of West Hants’ council members were thrilled to support Charlie Lahey’s request to have the soccer fields named after his son.

Dauphinee said every member of West Hants council voted in favour of offering financial support for the memorial signage telling Ryan’s story — the story of a 20-year-old who had the better part of his life ahead of him before he hopped in the back seat of a car operated by a friend who had been drinking.

“If one life is saved by somebody thinking before they get into a car… it’ll be all worth it,” he said, speaking of council’s contribution the project.

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter commended the Lahey family for sharing their son’s story, no matter how painful it may be. He said their courage may well lead to safer roads in West Hants.

“I spent a lot of years on the road as a paramedic… and I can tell you about experiences very similar, and families are absolutely ripped apart,” Porter said.

“But not every family has the opportunity to do what we’re doing today.”

Susan MacAskill, the regional manager for MADD’s Atlantic chapter, said, on average, three to four Canadians are killed at the hands of an impaired driver every day.

“Ryan’s story is like so many young people whose lives are ended tragically and far too soon because of someone else’s careless decision to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle,” she said, later concluding with, “From this day forward all athletes who play on these fields, all who are spectators and all who are visitors to these fields will be reminded of the tragic, senseless loss of a young life.”

The Lahey family has held an annual memorial soccer tournament in Ryan’s name since his death in March 2007.

Charlie expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the community at large before unveiling the sign welcoming all to the Ryan Lahey Memorial Soccer Fields, with some help from Ryan’s mother, Jannie.

“You’ve reached out and you’ve helped and supported from your hearts,” he said, his voice shaking. “You helped us to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives and continue our walk.”

“It is our hope and our prayer that when the young and old alike see this field… they will remember Ryan, and they will remember the tragic consequences that can happen because of somebody driving under the influence.”