Jennifer Neville-Lake's three children — Daniel, 9, Harry, 5, and Milly, 2 — died in a drunk driving crash in September 2015

By Char Adams
September 24, 2019 02:25 PM
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Credit: Courtesy Jennifer Neville-Lake

A Canadian mother who lost all of her children in a drunk driving crash has shared a moving photo of her kids’ lunchboxes on what should have been their first week of school.

Jennifer Neville-Lake, of Ontario, shared a photo of the three lunchboxes perched on a gravestone with a single balloon tied to each box. Those were the last lunchboxes she bought for her children — Daniel, 9, Harry, 5, and Milly, 2 — before their deaths in 2015.

“Grade 8. Grade 4. Grade 2. Or rather, should be! These were their lunch bags for their 2015 school year,” Neville-Lake began the Sept. 3 Facebook post. “Our family’s first day of school because of a drunk driver.”

The children were driving with their grandparents in Vaughan, Ontario, on Sept. 27, 2015, when the car was struck by a drunk driver, Constable Andy Pattenden with York Regional Police tells PEOPLE.

“It was a t-bone collision at an intersection,” Pattenden says. “The impaired driver failed to stop at the stop sign.”

Milly (top left), Ed (top center), Jennifer (far right), Harry (bottom right) and Daniel (far left)

The driver was arrested and charged with several impaired driving offenses and is currently in prison, Pattenden says.

Daniel died that day and Milly and Harry died the next day after being taken to the hospital, Neville-Lake tells PEOPLE.

“I hate my life now because of what the drunk driver did to my family,” the grieving mother says. “I hope that by sharing my reality people will make better choices. Maybe seeing or reading my pain will help someone else make a better choice.”

Her father, Gary Neville, also died in the crash, Pattenden confirms. Her mother, Neriza Neville, and the kids’ great-grandmother, Josefina Frias, were the only survivors.

It’s been nearly four years since the children died, but Neville-Lake clearly remembers the moment she received the heartbreaking news.

“I remember saying to the doctor, ‘All of my children? All of my children are gone? This can’t be true,’ ” she recalled to Good Morning America. “Our lives are pretty much over because our whole family has been taken.”

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Neville-Lake says this time of year is the hardest for her and her husband Ed as they struggle with their children’s deaths, funeral and burial dates along with the couple’s wedding anniversary — all from Sept. 27 to Oct. 17.

“No mom should have to hold all her children’s death certificates in her hand instead of getting hugs and kisses from them on her 40th birthday,” she tells PEOPLE.

In the wake of the deaths, Neville-Lake founded the Many Hands, Doing Good non-profit to support children who have experienced trauma through the arts.

This, Neville-Lake, said is the legacy she is building to honor her children and her father.