Southern Alberta community fundraising to rebuild memorial site in honour of fallen RCMP officer
The southern Alberta community of Picture Butte is coming together to raise funds to rebuild a memorial in honour of a Mountie who was killed in the line of duty nearly 13 years ago.
Const. Chelsey West Robinson was looking for an impaired driver when her cruiser was broadsided by a semi-trailer west of Edmonton on Highway 16 in June 2010.
The 25-year-old officer had just begun her policing career at the Stony Plain detachment seven months earlier.
Following her passing, her family collected donations for Canyon Church Camp, now known as Camp Canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park -- a place Chelsey loved to be.
"She was a camper there for many years and then she was a counsellor for four years," said Shelley West, Chelsey's mother.
The West family collected donations and eventually built the outdoor chapel area at the camp in Chelsey's honour.
"After she died, I found her Canyon Church journal that she had when she was there and just some of the things she wrote, she'd sit on the mountain and say she can feel God in the wind. She just loved it there," Shelley said.
"It was her safe place."
In 2017, the camp and surrounding area near Crandell Mountain were destroyed by the Kenow Wildfire.
Almost six years later, the West family and friends are hoping to rebuild the camp in honour of Chelsey.
To help cover the costs, Ruth Pelletier and Coreen Warnock have organized a fundraiser and carnival in Picture Butte for Saturday.
"Chelsey was just, she was one of those people that shone -- she just had that light within her," Pelletier said.
"So, to be able to do this in her name, it's a pretty big deal for the whole community, for the camp and for southern Alberta, really."
Pelletier says there will be games, crafts, a silent auction and more at the community centre on Saturday to raise funds.
The project has already raised more than $5,000, surpassing a goal of $2,000.
"The response has been amazing and I shouldn't be surprised because that's what Picture Butte's all about is pitching in, but I am," Pelletier said.
"I'm amazed at the response we've had so far."
"The support has just blown me away that after that long, that people would still come together and support this," Shelley said.
Chelsey was one of several family members who work in emergency services.
Her father, Sam, was the fire chief in Picture Butte before her brother, Frank, took over the position.
Her sisters Katie and Casey are firefighters in Picture Butte, while her other sister, Amy, is a firefighter with the Taber Fire Department.
The Chelsey West Memorial Phoenix Project hopes to raise enough money to rebuild the chapel and camp within a year or two.
"She gave back to the kids everything that she had gotten out of it when she was a kid, so just for the kids to get back that enjoyment that she had and my other children had, I just can't wait for it (the rebuild) to happen," Shelley said.
"It makes your heart melt when you know people thought that much of her."