Downtown Kitchener is now home to a new 'Every Child Matters' crosswalk.
An unveiling ceremony was held Friday afternoon in Victoria Park and saw local officials, residents, and members of Indigenous communities attend.
The crosswalk is the first to be endorsed by Orange Shirt Society and was created by local residents.
It features the 2022 orange shirt design, as well as over 6,000 painted footsteps on the paths around Victoria Park.
During the ceremony, there was the smell of sage in the air, and the sound of drums and song.
Elder Myeengun Henry gave a prayer of thanks.
"We give thanks for the children who teach us to know patience, understanding, and acceptance," he told the crowd with his voice full of emotion.
Attendees wore orange to honour residential school survivors.
"It's an important day to reflect on the impact on so many generations of children, in terms of our residential schools, and really see how our community has come together, particularly these young children, to say 'we're working together.' We're remembering and we're working together towards a better future," Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic told CityNews 570.
Representatives from government, including Cambridge Mayor Kathryn McGarry, Regional Councillor Tom Galloway, Regional Chair Karen Redman, and Kitchener Centre MP Mike Morrice were in attendance.
The initiative was spear-headed by a local Indigenous-led community group.
"We showed community members from young to old that we all matter. And you can feel it with the emotions of the children, the orange shirts coming in," said Sheena Merling, the resident lead behind the tribute crosswalk.
Susan, a local resident stood in the crowd wearing a sign reading, "Every child matters."
"I walk this park almost everyday and I walk the path of the little children's feet and I cry every time. It's just so sad," she said.
Sierra, who was there during her work break, felt the emotion of the ceremony.
"The difference of what they taught us in school compared to what has actually happened is a big difference," she said about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Shoes were also laid out around the Queen Victoria statue in honour of Indigenous children.
"I was inspired by the overwhelming community support that I witnessed on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in 2021, but I felt there was more work to be done to continue the conversation,” said Merling.
“I decided to form a committee of Indigenous community members and allies with the mission of creating a lasting memorial in public view in memory of the children who lost their lives in residential schools."
Friday's ceremony comes ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.
Another gathering in Victoria Park is also planned to mark the day.
Local officials, community members, children, and members of Indigenous communities gathering for @ECMCrosswalk unveiling event at Victoria Park @CityNewsKIT pic.twitter.com/sYZMqLPiRQ— Germain Ma (@GermainMa1) September 16, 2022
More from today’s members of the Indigenous community, local officials, children and community members, gather for the @ECMCrosswalk unveiling event at Victoria Park @CityNewsKIT pic.twitter.com/pz2Bqdbl2Y— Roxanne Charles (@Roxanne62497584) September 16, 2022
The crosswalk features this year’s orange shirt design & there are over 6 thousand painted footsteps on the paths around Victoria Park @CityNewsKIT pic.twitter.com/Es3Q6uQOug— Germain Ma (@GermainMa1) September 16, 2022