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Memorial tree to finally turn blue

It will be a bittersweet victory when teen Franki Fontana finally gets to splash blue paint on to a tree in memory of her late boyfriend, Cohen Fink, this weekend.

Devastated by the loss of 17-year-old Cohen, Franki wanted to paint a dead tree on council-owned land in Port Kennedy blue as part of the Blue Tree Project to raise awareness about mental health.

It’s been nearly a year since City of Rockingham staff controversially turned down her bid, and she says it simply shouldn’t have been this hard.

Her bid was originally turned down by City staff in November last year who cited safety and management concerns.

A similar bid by the Baldivis Leos — a youth extension of the Baldivis Lions Club — was also declined.

When a 2257 signature-strong petition in support of painting a Rockingham tree blue was presented to council, members finally bowed to pressure. What looked to be a win for the community then hit another setback in March this year, with the risk of COVID-19 forcing postponement of a painting day.

Baldivis Leos Shalini Thornhill, president Madison Forrester and vice president Courtney Redhall with Franki Fontana.
Camera IconBaldivis Leos Shalini Thornhill, president Madison Forrester and vice president Courtney Redhall with Franki Fontana.

Now Franki, along with Cohen’s family and other members of the Rockingham community are picking up their paint brushes again, ready to spread paint on a tree on the corner of Safety Bay Road and Baldivis Road on Saturday, September 12.

The Baldivis Leos are also co-hosting the joint event, which will run from 10am to 2pm.

On the day the members of the community will each have the chance to place a contrasting blue print of their palm on the tree to leave their mark and “encourage awareness amongst us all”.

There will also be various mental health organisations including Anglicare’s CYPRESS, attending to share information on how the community can support each other to understand mental health and grief.

Cohen’s mum Pamella Fink said she was glad the day had finally come, but was disappointed some mental health providers had pulled out at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts.

“Any mental health organisations who want to come along on Saturday are welcome to . . . that’s what it was all about in the first place, letting the community know what services are out there,” she said.

Franki said the journey “should not have been this hard”, but she was looking forward to finally getting the tree painted.

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