Premier Ford Drops by Grafton to Thank Highway of Heroes Volunteers During ActONLitter Week

In Editor Choice, Local, Photo Gallery

On Friday, October 23, 2020, Premier Doug Ford, MPP David Piccini and MPP Andrea Khanjin joined The Highway of Heroes Volunteers who are made up of military members, veterans, first responders, families of the fallen soldiers and civilians who care about them, to clean part of the Highway of Heroes in Grafton on Lyle Street as part of the Ministry of Environment #ActONLitter Waste Reduction week.

Earlier this year, in support of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and help keep Ontarians safe, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks postponed the 2020 Day of Action on Litter cleanups, originally slated to take place May 12th, 2020. The 2021 Day of Action on Litter is taking place May 11, 2021 and the Ministry of Environment is inviting all stakeholders to start thinking about how they may be able to host a cleanup on or around May 11 to recognize the 2021 Day of Action, or potentially shift other planned cleanups to May 11 to contribute to this provincial initiative. If you have any questions you can email

Last November the Highway of Heroes volunteers from as far away as Montreal, Ottawa, Barrie, Cambridge, Niagara Falls and across the ocean in Denmark were invited to the Legislative Assembly for a private meeting with Premier Ford to be acknowledged for their environmentally astute efforts in picking up hundreds of bags of garbage on the on and off ramps on the Highway of Heroes that stretches from Trenton to Keele Street in Toronto – 172 km east and 172 km west twice a year. At that time Premier Ford expressed an interest in cleaning the Highway of Heroes as part of their annual Spring and Fall Clean.

Coordinating the Highway of Heroes Volunteers to participate in the Waste Reduction Week #ActONLitter initiative with Piccini was registered psychiatric nurse Kerri Tadeu – a recipient of the 2020 Veterans Affairs Canada Commendation.

Tadeu has been the driving force in bringing the Veteran Community together every Spring and Fall clean on the Highway of Heroes for the past four years with the focus being 95% Mental Health and 5% garbage collection despite picking up hundreds of bags of garbage every Spring and every Fall clean.

Piccini has participated in numerous Spring and Fall cleans over the last couple of years and shared his thoughts about Tadeu.

“Kerri has been remarkable in engaging Silver Cross moms and veterans. It’s not only been to honour our heroes but it has been important for families to come together. It’s for their mental health just to get together, to share the camaraderie, clean up and honour this stretch of highway that has honoured their loved ones who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Piccini shared that Premier Ford is actively working on diverting waste out of landfills and recycling and highlighted Khanjin who is the Assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is actively leading the charge on that initiative.

Khanjin shared “I think this really drives a whole new message that all environmental issues start at home. They start on the ground like we see here. If you can keep your backyard and your neighbourhood safe that’s where true environmentalism starts.”

Attending today’s Highway of Hereos clean were three mothers of Fallen Soldiers including Honourary Lt Colonel of the Military Police Academy Nancy Siew whose son Capt. Cletus Cheng died at a Peacekeeper Challenge competition in New Mexico in 1995.

Memorial Cross Mother Anna Loveman, whose son Craftsman Kyle Sinclair died while repairing an armoured vehicle at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in 2014 and
Memorial Cross Mother Dianne Knight, whose daughter Major Michelle Knight Mendes died at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan in 2009. Tadeu adopted the Highway of Heroes in honour of Major Michelle Knight Mendes with Corporal Nick Kerr CD and Master Corporal (retired) Collin Fitzgerald MMV, CD In 2016.

Master Corporal (retired) Fitzgerald, his daughter Peyton Fitzgerald, Memorial Cross Mother Dianne Knight and Kerri Tadeu greeted Premier Ford upon his arrival with MPP Piccini and Andrea Khanjin and shared the history of how the Highway of Heroes was adopted in honour of Grafton born Major Knight Mendes and the importance of remembering all that gave some and some that gave all, 365 days a year not just on Remembrance Day.

With Remembrance Day ceremonies cancelled this year, Pipe Major Mary Ito attended the clean and played a lament after a moment of silence that Highway of Heroes volunteer and Canadian Armed Forces Veteran Bill Bachellier organized where he shared these words:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”

Also in attendance was Major Knight Mendes childhood friend and Highway of Heroes Volunteer, Northumberland OPP Constable Toni Whelan and her husband Durham Region Police Officer Jody Whelan and their two boys.

Cobourg resident Lorna Dickson nicknamed the Highway of Heroes Earth Angel participated in today’s clean and was acknowledged for her efforts to raise over $23,000 that has been donated between Project Trauma Support and To The Stan and Back- two organizations dedicated to the mental wellbeing of Military Members, Veterans and First Responders in memory of Knight-Mendes.

British Armed Forces Veteran and active duty Toronto Police Officer Simon Toyne has been volunteering with the Highway of Heroes for three years after having met Tadeu and Fitzgerald at the Toronto Invictus Games. Toyne escorted Nancy Siew from Toronto and Tadeu said “The Highway of Heroes Volunteers are very much like family members who are always giving more than what is expected or asked. The best of the human race spend two months of the year out here picking up garbage that is carelessly tossed on the side of the road where 158 Fallen Soldiers were repatriated home from the Afghanistan War. We are out here to spend time with each other Remembering while making a difference for environment. It would be ideal to be out of work for these kinds of volunteer roles and if that day ever comes because people stop littering we will create a new initiative to bring the Veteran Community together”

The Spring and Fall Clean of the Highway of Heroes presented a number of unique challenges this year secondary to COVID19 and a tremendous amount of dedicated support was received from First Responder with the Ministry of Transportation Rob Baird, Canadian Armed Forces member Brian Weber, Canadian Armed Forces Veteran Christine Morin and Mayor Harrison and his wife Jane who also participated in cleaning today.

In April 2001, the Governor General authorized the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation to formally recognize Canadians from every walk of life who provide outstanding volunteer service to Veterans, their communities and their country.

The Governor General Warrant states the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation be “…awarded to individuals who have performed commendable service to the Veteran community and/or individuals who represent commendable role models for their fellow Veterans.”

Tadeu accepted the Veterans Affairs Commendation in memory of Grafton born Major Michelle Knight Mendes and acknowledges that the Highway of Heroes Adoption is what it is because of the service men and women and Families of the Fallen and people who care about them that participate in the Highway of Heroes initiatives. Tadeu has created an undeniable legacy in honour of Major Knight Mendes in her commitment to keeping Major Knight Mendes memory alive and affecting change in the Veteran Community and combating the epidemic of suicide among Military Members, Veterans and First Responders by helping service men and women to help themselves recovery from their operational Stress injuries through human connection both on and off the Highway of Heroes.

Kerri Lynn Tadeu’s Veterans Affairs Commendation Citation

Kingston, Ontario
Kerri-Lynn Tadeu is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse. Mrs. Tadeu is nominated for the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation for her leadership with the Highway of Heroes Adoption.

In 2009, after losing her friend, Major Michelle Knight-Mendes, in Afghanistan, she set out on a personal mission to learn more about the service and sacrifices of Canadian Armed Forces members and their family members. This inspired her to help Canadian Armed Forces members and their family members move from pain to purpose.

In 2016, Mrs. Tadeu, a Veteran and a Canadian Armed Forces member adopted a stretch of the Highway of Heroes in honour of Major Knight-Mendes. Shortly thereafter, the trio adopted the entirety of the 344 kilometre Highway of Heroes in an effort to bring the Veteran Community together.

Under the Highway of Heroes Adoption umbrella she has organized several yearly events and initiatives free of charge to the Veteran Community. These include “Our Nations Heroes” hockey game in 2018 and “The Highway of Heroes“ Hockey Game in 2019 to unite the Veteran Community. She has also organized multiple Mental Health First Aid courses, baseball games and therapeutic rounds of golf supporting Veterans and their families. initiatives and has spoken at various events.

In 2018, Kerri commissioned the Highway of Heroes Four One Hundred and Fifty-Eight in Honour of Major Michelle Knight Mendes Memorial Globe, which tells the grassroots story of the founding of the Highway of Heroes. The memorial glove has travelled to countless commemorative events throughout Ontario and Quebec and visited every Atlantic province.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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