‘SkyHawks’ stage dramatic drop-in at Souvenir Elementary School

Canadian Forces parachute team makes a safe landing on SES playing field

For a teacher, administrator or support worker at any grade school, there’s probably no sound more rewarding than the squeals of delight of young students completely enthralled by a learning experience.

Such was the case early on Thursday morning last week at Souvenir Elementary School in Chomedey.

Souvenir Elementary School principal Helen Kalipolidis is seen here last week with members of the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team, better known as the Skyhawks, who made a dramatic parachute landing into the field behind the school. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

Shortly after 8 am, when the students would normally be arriving to begin their day, a phalanx of the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team – better known as the SkyHawks – jumped out of a small plane hovering around 2,500 feet over the schoolyard and made a gradual parachute drop into the centre of the Souvenir Elementary field – getting the school year off to an exciting start.

Honoring Sgt. Chris Karigiannis

In addition to the presence of the Skyhawks, the kids and staff at Souvenir Elementary also welcomed members of the Karigiannis family.

Sgt. Christos Karigiannis, a former Laval resident, was killed in the line of duty in 2007 while serving with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. His mother, Niki, his brother, Peter (who also attended Souvenir Elementary), and Anastasia, a grand-daughter, received a standing ovation.

The family’s presence at the school was especially meaningful since Chris Karigiannis attended Souvenir Elementary and graduated later from Laval Senior Academy. After joining the Canadian Forces, Chris Karigiannis also became a member of the SkyHawks parachuting team.

“Sgt. Karigiannis is not physically with us here today,” said Souvenir Elementary principal Helen Kalipolidis, while noting, however, that family members had brought along his SkyHawks windbreaker which they continue to treasure.

Skyhawks a special calling

“Not everybody in the Canadian Forces becomes a SkyHawk,” said Peter Karigiannis, “because it’s very difficult, it requires a lot of work, a lot of commitment.”

He said that if the Souvenir Elementary students were to draw one lesson from the example set by Chris Karigiannis and the Skyhawks, it would be “to do really important things that are important for you: you have to be willing to make the effort and to overcome the challenges.”

The day also saw a new Souvenir Elementary School banner and logo unveiled, with allusions to the SkyHawks, thanks to special permission obtained from the parachute team. The new banner declares Souvenir Elementary to be “Skyhawk Territory,” while also noting they share the values of being “loyal” and “strong.”

Fifty-four years as Skyhawks

The year 2023 is a very important one for the Skyhawks as they celebrate 54 years of performances. The team has a long and storied history. In June of 1969 an unofficial SkyHawks team, comprised of sport parachute qualified members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, was formed.

A safe landing in the rear yard at Souvenir Elementary School. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

In August of 1996, the CABC moved along with the SkyHawks from Edmonton to their new home base in Trenton, Ontario near Toronto. Each year, the SkyHawks perform events across North America and around the world, thrilling audiences with their aerobatic parachute formations in the sky.