Voted the best guard in Canada

Jake ApacibleFighting back tears, Jake Apacible, 78, accepted his award Dec. 13 at Northlea school auditorium for being voted “the most popular crossing guard in Canada”.

Over 250 students were there to honour him for his 10 years of work.

He accepted his award, $500 and a crystal maple leaf statue, by saying, “I have to keep children from being hit by all means.”

The yearly contest, sponsored by FedEx Express Canada and the national charitable organization, Parachute, promotes the role crossing guards play in keeping children safe.

Early each morning, rain or shine, in snow and freezing rain, Apacible travels from his home in Markham to Leaside. “It’s a friendly community,” he says. “The children are very respectful and the parents are always polite.”

“We appreciate Jake so much,” said Gabriel Smith, 12, in a speech at the ceremony. Other speakers referred to Apacible as their “guardian angel”.

With increased development in Leaside, and big trucks double-parking on roads near the school, Apacible notes that traffic congestion has escalated, but that bad driving habits remain the same.

One close call came to mind. As he was guiding some kids across the road, a woman tried to swing her car around them.

“I told her the kids must be a priority,” Apacible recalls . “The woman replied, ‘I’m in a hurry.’

“How would you feel if it was your own kid? I said, and she melted.”

“I play the role of extended traffic cop,” he added, explaining that he often blocks vehicles with his body to prevent them from speeding into intersections. “Once people see my uniform, they show respect.”

Apacible is also noted for helping the disabled get to vehicles, even if it means staying late.

“Our nickname for him in our division is 007,” says Wai Lau, a coordinator at Toronto Police Services, who works closely with Apacible.

It’s not just Northlea School children who chat up Apacible each day, but also kids who have graduated, and moved onto Leaside High. And then there are the parents who bring him gifts such as bananas, candy, biscuits, and apples.

With most people his age settling into retirement, does Apacible see himself hanging up his reflective vest anytime soon?

“No. I shall always do this for as long as I am here. I am inspired by the children I help,” he replied, adding he feels loyal to the Leaside community.

Nominations for next year will be posted to the Parachute website. Typically, three winners are named but this year’s judging panel was so impressed with their top four choices they were all named. The other winners are in Winnipeg, St John’s, Newfoundland and Whitehorse, Yukon.