The five students of De Vesten in Herentals have collected enough money to not only place a memorial on the spot in Malmedy where Lars Janssens died last summer, but also closer to home.
Mateo Horemans, Gutte Weuts, Aksel Sluyts, Thibe Piessens and Nikita Laenen, five fifth-year TSO students on the De Vesten campus of the Community Education in Herentals, have collected a total of 4,075 euros for their memorial project for Lars Janssens. The sixteen-year-old cycling talent from Merksplas was training in Malmedy with his cycling team TeamKempen at the beginning of August last year, when he was hit by a van. For several days he fought for his life in the hospital, but it turned out to be an unequal battle.
“But Lars was a very good friend of mine”, says Mateo Horemans from Olen. “We’ve known each other since we were seven years old and started riding together at the Flemish Cycling School in Herentals. That bond has always grown bigger and closer. For the School Project of Lions Herentals (in which the service club challenges secondary school students to develop a project for a good cause, ed.) I came up with the idea of erecting a small monument or memorial stone at the site of the accident.”
Before that, the five classmates worked out a wafer sale, while also placing free-gift jars in numerous shops and businesses. In those jars, sympathizers left about 340 euros, but thanks to the media attention, the waffle sales raised no less than 2,100 euros. In addition, the young people also received 435 euros in support.
“Lars was a big fan of Toon Aerts from Rijkevorsel. Lars even visited him in the hospital of Malmedy. I contacted Toon Aerts at the end of February and he donated us a signed jersey that he wore at the 2018 Cyclo-cross World Championship in Valkenburg. We were allowed to auction it for the benefit of the memorial monument for Lars. That raised 450 euros,” says Mateo Horemans with some pride. The highest bidder is entrepreneur Kurt Paradis from Gierle (Lille), who will receive the jewel on Saturday during the finals of the Lions Herentals Scholenproject.
Second memorial stone
The jury of the service club awarded the initiative of the students an additional 750 euros, bringing the total amount to 4,075 euros. “That is enough to make two memorial stones,” the young people say. “These will be low monuments made of bluestone and granite. On it will be a photo, the text from his memorial card and stars. One memorial stone will be placed on the spot where Lars was hit by a car. But because Malmedy is not close by for family and friends who want to go to the monument from the Kempen, we have decided to place a second one nearby. It will look the same, but probably with a different text. The intention is to place that stone somewhere in Lille along the fixed training course of Lars. We have yet to determine the exact location.”
Lars’ parents Guy and Debby were touched on Saturday when they took a picture with the initiators. “It is very nice what these guys are doing.”