08/15/2013 10:16 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Lac-Mégantic teen orphan finds friend and a fresh start

A young man orphaned by the train derailment and fiery explosions that devastated Lac-Mégantic, Que., last month is getting a helping hand from a stranger who recalls the early loss of his own parents.

Gérald Gosselin, now in his 60s, was born and raised in Lac-Mégantic. His parents both died before he turned 18.

When tragedy struck his hometown, Gosselin wanted to help. So he invited the families of all those who had lost a parent in the disaster to spend some time at his resort in St-Raymond, 55 kilometres northwest of Quebec City.

"It's just time for us to give back to people," Gosselin said. "It doesn't have to be [those] that we know."

Teen offered work and a new start

One of those people is Sébastien Lecours, 18, who was already a troubled teen when his father died last December.

Then his mother, Marie-Noëlle Faucher, was killed in the train derailment on July 6.

Faucher's last words to her son were in a text message — reminding him to do the dishes and telling him she loved him.

Gosselin heard about Lecours and invited him to spend a couple of weeks at the resort, hiring him to do yard work and other odd jobs.

"He was very frustrated when he first came here," Gosselin said of the wary teenager. "He was mad at everyone, and he didn't believe in anything."

Lecours agrees with that assessment.

What his mother would have wanted

As Lecours worked to build a fence, he spent all his time thinking about his mother.

"I remember all the memories — the good days. the bad days," Lecours recounted. "Anything. I just see a frog in the road, and I say, 'Oh! It's my mom.' His mother had a fondness for frogs, and Lecours has a tattoo of one on his leg.

"I look at the sky, and I see stars, and I think about her," Lecours said.

"When the time passed, I realized, [this] is good for me," he said. "I needed to be calm and think about me."

Lecours decided it was time for a change in his life.

Now, with Gosselin's help, he's moved to Quebec City. He has a new job, and he plans to return to school to get his high school diploma.

He said it helps to be told he has the potential to do something with his life — something he heard from his mother but no one else until now.

His aim now, he said, is to live the life his mother would have wanted for him.

"He's very intelligent," Gosselin said. "He didn't probably have the chance prior to now."

Gosselin doesn't try to discount the challenges ahead for his new friend, even though he has someone looking out for him.

"But now he's in full control of his life," Gosselin said. "What he wants to do with [it]."