By Craig Westcott/December 23, 2021
CBS couple Bernie and Louise Mercer received high praise at Tuesday’s public council meeting as they were heralded for persevering in their efforts to turn a deep personal tragedy into good for others.
The couple hosted the Eighth Annual Riley Mercer Memorial Toy Drive at the Salvation Army church in Long Pond last week. The Mercers lost both their son Riley and their daughter Alex to brain cancer while both were still children. They’ve used the toy drive to honour the memory of their children and to raise toys, cash and other help for needy families at Christmas.
“I had, frankly, the honour, of attending the Riley Mercer Toy Drive and it was really quite moving what the Mercer family have done,” said rookie councilor-at-large Josh Barrett. “I think it is testament of not only the generosity of residents of Conception Bay South, but really the Christmas spirit and I want to thank those who were involved in that.”
Ward 1 councillor Shelley Moores said she too was moved by the event. “It’s something I look forward to attending, or being a part of, in a very positive way, every year,” Moores said. “It’s just amazing how they’ve turned such a horrible thing into a positive, beautiful thing, and I think it’s amazing that our town always steps up and supports this every year. So, I just want to say congratulations to the family. We’re thinking about them all the time.”
Councillor Paul Connors said he couldn’t attend the event this year. “But I’ve known Bernie and Louise for a long time and the work that they do from a tragedy is really unbelievable and I know they will continue on this for a long, long time,” he said. “The memory of their children will always be there, and I think it’s their goal in life to make sure that continues to happen, and they’re doing a fabulous job.”
Ward 4 councilor Melissa Hardy and Deputy Mayor Andrea Gosse offered similar sentiments, the latter observing that the efforts of the Mercers “certainly inspire a community,” and bring out the best in people.
Councilor-at-large Christine Butler said the toy drive is important to many families. “I’ve been attending this function for a number of years and have known Bernie and Louise for a little bit more than that, and through all their sorrow and pain they just bring so much joy to families on Christmas morning and I can not count out the help the Salvation Army gives them also,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing to be part of and it just brings so much joy to everybody who attends and everybody who is in receipt of all the good things that they’ve done over the year and not just at Christmas.”
Mayor Darrin Bent said while the numbers in the church were down a bit this time because of Covid and social distancing restrictions, “the most important part was that the room was full of toys and those toys will be under trees this Christmas for residents of Conception Bay South who need them. And that’s the moving part about this, the caring and giving community that we have. It shows itself every time Bernie and Louise Mercer reach out to the community and say, ‘Can you help?’ and this community responds in spades. It’s a fantastic event and I thank them for it.”