Tragedy sparks lifes work

Sam McNeish
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OXFORD - A statement made by a guest speaker normally doesnt stick in the mind of those who attend conferences.

That was until Tory Rushton, the fire chief for the Town of Oxford, heard Michael Gaultois speak.

I have a story and it is written all over my face was the opening statement Gaultois made at the Maritime Fire Chiefs Convention this past summer in P.E.I.

He was the guest speaker for the closing banquet and he told the story of a young teenager who thought he could take on the world because he was invincible.

That story changed one night at a cabin. He and few other friends had thrown together. The cabin caught fire in the middle of the night, killing one young boy and burning three others and himself.

After months and months of treatment at the Shriners burn hospital in Boston, Michael returned home to his small Newfoundland community.

Leaving high school and working odd jobs, Michael realized he needed a higher education. He returned to high school and graduated at the top of his class going on to receive an arts degree from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in the psychology program.

He is now a trained motivational speaker and has not only fire safety tips in his message but also life decision tips. His portfolio is filled with organizations that support him in his efforts and in return Michael speaks very highly of each and every group.

I met Michael in Summerside, P.E.I., this past summer and we exchanged business cards, Tory Rushton, Oxford fire chief said.

I thought it would be a great idea to have him come in and speak to the area schools and to the local fire departments, he added.

Rushton said two other chiefs from the area thought the same way and also spoke with him.

Late in August, he received a call from Michael asking if everything was scheduled he was coming.

There has been a lot of hard work go into this visit. He will be travelling around the eastern part of Cumberland County on his trip next week.

He is not even here yet and we have people wanting to fill cancelled slots or book him again. When we started making the original plans we wanted to get Michael to see as many youth as possible and the schools were very accommodating.

The local fire chiefs of each area of managed to book in time slots for nine schools.

He will be talking to Grades 4 to 6 in the elementary schools and grades 7 to 12 in the high schools. The local departments have also funded this event with their own funds and some support from local municipalities.

I personally hope we can bring Mr. Gaultois back in the spring to get many other schools and we will be talking to him to next week to try and secure a time slot. He has a strong message and people sit on the edge of their seat listening to him. I would like to see him visit every school in Cumberland County before he goes home but time does not permit it.

He will also be doing a presentation at the Oxford Fire Station on Monday evening for all Cumberland County firefighters who wish to attend.

He has a strong message and does not mind sharing his past experiences good and bad. People can learn more about Michael on his web page at

Life is full of choices. You always have the final choice in your decisions, he says.

Do not go where the path may lead but create your own path and blaze a trail

Organizations: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Shriners, Oxford Fire Station

Geographic location: OXFORD, Cumberland County, P.E.I. Boston Newfoundland Summerside

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