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Georgian College Auto Show pays tribute to student killed in Barrie crash

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When Jason Ono-O'Connor was chosen to be one of five student directors at this year's Georgian College Auto Show, it was among the highest honours for any student at the college's automotive business school of Canada.

But after tragically losing his life in a crash on McKay Road last summer, alongside Curtis King, 22; River Wells, 21; Luke West, 22; Jersey Mitchell, 20; and Haley Marin, 21, the college is ensuring that his legacy will help others in achieving their automotive dreams forever.

On Friday, at the launch of the Georgian College Auto Show, the college announced the creation of the Jason Ono-O'Connor Memorial Endowment Fund.

This permanent scholarship will provide financial aid for student directors annually to honour Ono-O'Connor's life.

"I do get a little emotional. He was a big part of this show, or was going to be a big part of this show," said Jason Dale, executive director of the Automotive Business School of Canada. "This is a community, friends, family, that all got together, and it's going to be lifelong for all student directors."

Jason Ono-O'Connor's Dream

The car show also displayed A white BMW M240I at its alumni tent to pay special tribute to Ono-O'Connor.

"It was Jason Ono-O'Connor's dream car," Dale said. "We wanted to ensure that was here as a special nod to him."

The memorial fund and tribute to Ono-O'Connor were incredibly impactful for one of the five directors for this year's show.

Harrison Reid was Ono-O'Connor's best friend throughout their post-secondary careers.

The 4th year student said losing his best friend is still challenging to put into words but is thankful his legacy will continue to help his peers.

"The very first day of class, I walked in, and I thought, 'that guy looks like we would get along really well,' and it just so happened that we did," Reid said. "He was just so smart, brilliant, passionate, and infectious. He's just one of those guys that you can't help but want to be around."

Reid was able to share a memorable hug with the parents of Ono-O'Connor at the opening ceremonies of the car show.

"I love his family. They're just like my own," he added. "They've been so supportive. They've always been open arms to having me in their home in B.C. and vice versa, at my home in Barrie."

A culmination of learning

The new scholarship is just one component that will help future students, but the event also allows students to unlock all the tools they've picked up throughout their studies.

The auto show gives students a massive opportunity to learn about the industry, from speaking with experts to setting up a show that has become synonymous with the automotive industry.

For Grace Stein, one of the five directors of this year's event, it allows her to carry on her family's legacy in the automotive world.

"My family have always owned an auto shop in Gravenhurst, with my grandfather even still working there," Stein said. "But my dad has always told me to push for bigger and better. He wants me to do wonderful things."

Stein aspires to climb the corporate ladder, particularly from the marketing side. That was also her role in the auto show.

"My parents are super, super proud of what we've been able to accomplish," Stein said. "I'm so thankful that I get to share my passion with them. It's so cool when your parents understand your hobbies."

Stein added that if cars aren't your thing, there are still plenty of activities for families to check out. Her favourite attraction is Bentley, a car-driving dog who has become a fan-favourite at auto shows across North America.

The Georgian College Auto Show will run all weekend at its Barrie campus.

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