Quick thinking and decisive action by a Toronto Police crossing guard may have saved the life of a little boy who was wandering on a city street during rush-hour traffic.
Just before 4 p.m. on May 14, 2014, Damianos (Danny) Mouzakitis spotted the five-year old attempting to cross against a red light at the Coxwell Ave. and Glebeholme Blvd. intersection he has been manning for the past five years.
“I was helping a mother and her two children cross when I saw this little boy, about three feet tall, trying to go across the road on the red light,” recounted Mouzakitis, who was recognized with the School Crossing Guard of the Year Award on April 15 at City Hall. “I had seen him sitting on the steps of a house a little earlier and all of a sudden he was on the street trying to cross.”
Mouzakitis said motorists approaching the intersection saw the boy and slowed down.
“They were very understandable and exercised caution,” he pointed out. “I ran over to the kid, took him by his arms and I asked him what was his name. When I asked the child where he was going, he told me he was looking for his mother.”
The crossing guard held on to the boy until police – whom he had summoned – arrived.
It was later learnt that the boy left an afterschool computer program facility after his mother had dropped him off about 3.30 pm. that afternoon. With a teacher frantically searching for him, he was returned to the school without injury and his parents were notified about the incident.
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee, who presented the award to Mouzakitis, said the crossing guard exemplifies the Service’s core values of reliability, integrity and team work.
“What Danny did on that day saved hours of police work searching for a missing child and unbelievable stress to his parents,” he added.
Superintendent William Wardle, the 54 Division unit commander, praised Mouzakitis
“Danny saw something that didn’t look right and he went over, stopped him and called police,” said Wardle. “Had he not taken quick action, who knows what could have happened to this young child?”
Mouzakitis, who works in the hospitality industry, has lived in 54 Division for the last 35 years.
“It’s an honour for me to do something in the community,” especially for the children,” said Mouzakitis. “This is something for me to do during the day.”
You are the guardian angels of our most precious gift, which is our children
The Service employs 665 full-time and 100-part time crossing guards who cover 600 posts across the city, five days a week, during the school year.
Deputy Chief Mark Saunders thanked the guards for their commitment, loyalty and service.
“You are the guardian angels of our most precious gift, which is our children,” Saunders told them. “You ensure that our young boys and girls get to school and home safely. What you do affects not only our city and these kids but their parents. I have gone through three generations of kids who have relied on you to make sure they go to and from school safely. I want to thank you for doing that because it offers peace of mind to every parent.”
Guards were recognized for five, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years’ service at the ceremony hosted by the TPSB.
Mukherjee reminded the recipients that their time put in as crossing guards are significant milestones in their service to the community and they are unsung heroes.
“Your role as crossing guards is indispensable,” he said. “…You work in the rain, wind and snow and you do this without complaint. You know the children’s names and you greet them warmly. As a result, you are loved and respected by the children in your communities. I know that the families in those neighbourhoods value your presence beyond measure. The work that everyone of you do on a daily basis is vital to the safety of our city.”
Ada Krukoski, who was unable to attend the event, and Alexander Cockburn were this year’s 25-year award recipients. Cockburn, who has a pacemaker, was forced to quit late last year because of ill health.
“This job gave me life and it was a blessing,” said Cockburn, who lives less than a minute from the Pape & Harcourt Aves. intersection where he helped children cross for over two decades.
The 20-year service award winners were Rudy Estrada, Frederick Grove, Manuel Abellanosa, Judith McKay, June Forrest, Ernest Nielsen, Rafia Ali, Stafford Hope, Beverley Halliday, Silvia Gerardi, Virginia Signoretti, June Reed, Pauline Hayes, Marie Daoust and Nina Nenoff.
Patricia Caplikas, Nikolai Sidorenko, Zena Primus, Anthony Westbrook, Clifford Brown, Joseph Poulin, Arnoldo Rodrigues, Lois Young, Gerie Regular, Edward Batten and Eufemia Sciavilla were honoured for 15 years of service.
The 10-year award recipients were Akbar Belqis-Barez, Carol LeBlanc, Phillip Ogison, Stanley Stoyanis, Tammy Taggart, Harbhajan Sangha, Donald Noble, Beverley Wayne, Melody Bonnici, Mary Dudman, Rodney Pruss, Alexandru Iliescu, Joseph MacLean, David Gabereau, Devali Olieslager, David Bennett, Nancy Ballantyne, Denis Sardelis, Dalmacuio Daweg, Albert Cake and Marina Gaudion.
There were 64 recipients of the five-year service award.