West Bloomfield residents John and Ann Mansour are pictured with their children, Gabrielle, Adriana and Alexander. After Alexander and Gabrielle died in a powerboat accident in 2013, a fundraising walk was started at the Detroit Zoo.

West Bloomfield residents John and Ann Mansour are pictured with their children, Gabrielle, Adriana and Alexander. After Alexander and Gabrielle died in a powerboat accident in 2013, a fundraising walk was started at the Detroit Zoo.

Photo provided by Ann Mansour

Event scheduled in memory of two children who died in boating accident

‘It comforts my heart to see our community coming together and supporting us’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 18, 2023


WEST BLOOMFIELD — More than 10 years have passed since West Bloomfield residents John and Ann Mansour lost two of their children in a boating accident.

On Sunday, July 14, 2013, John and Ann’s children, Adriana, Alexander and Gabrielle, were tubing on Sylvan Lake when a powerboat accidentally ran over the tube.

Alexander, who was 11 years old, and his younger sister, Gabrielle, 6, died as a result of the accident.

Of John and Ann’s three children, only Adriana, who was 10 years old at the time, survived. She suffered a traumatic brain injury.

“When the accident happened to our family, we had a number of seminarians from the Chaldean Diocese that attend the Sacred Heart Seminary show up at the hospital and be there with us on a daily basis, praying with us, supporting us and our family, and just having a beautiful presence that helped guide us, (and) carry us through a very difficult stretch,” John said. “And from that point forward, we had some idea to try to help the church and start to think about what we can do as a family to give back for all the love, support and prayers.”

The way that John and Ann opted to give back was to start what is known as the Stride for Seminarians Walk at the Detroit Zoo, which began in 2014.

“As a family, that was one of our favorite go-to places, (and) in memory of our son, Alex, and daughter, Gabby, the zoo was the center point and focal point of where the event would be held,” John said. “We thought a walk and a Mass with breakfast, lunch and kids’ activity would be a great way to celebrate their life and memory, and also support the Chaldean seminarians and the seminarian fund.”

The 10th Stride for Seminarians Walk is set to take place at the Detroit Zoo Sept. 17, with registration scheduled at 7:30 a.m., the walk at 8:30 a.m. and Mass at 10:30 a.m.

According to a press release, registration includes a T-shirt, breakfast, lunch, kids activities, Mass and admission to the zoo.

The general admission costs $45. For those between the ages of 2 and 12, admission costs $35.

There is no admission charge for children under 2.

For Ann, the walk represents the legacy her children left behind and the community coming together to remember them.

“It comforts my heart to see our community coming together and supporting us,” Ann said. “Over the 10 years, we’ve gotten a lot (of) support from so many people — family, friends and people that came to us we didn’t even know and now we’re very close with. … It comforts my heart to see that all these people are coming together for us and to remember our children. … It’s a good feeling for us to know that we have all this support from everyone.”

Although it has been over 10 years since the accident occurred, John said that the emotions are still raw.

“They’re there with us every moment, every day,” he said. “It’s just part of our life and will be part of the journey. … We have a very strong faith. God is always at the forefront, and I think that’s what’s kept us focused on one another, our daughter’s recovery, and just trying to deal with life on Earth.”

John shared an update on Adriana’s condition.

“My daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury. With that came almost a restart of learning to walk, to eat and just reborn again,” he said. “It’s been a long battle, a long stretch, but it’s taken an army to support her and our family to get us through each day in her recovery. But reflecting on 10 years, incredible progress. Her medical team has been astounded, and she’s quite the miracle.”

Adriana is now 20 years old. She graduated from West Bloomfield High in 2021 and has since gone on to get an associate degree in medical assisting from Oakland Community College.

In the first year of the Stride for Seminarians Walk, John said, it was “quite a shock” to have almost 1,000 people in attendance. It has grown even larger since that inaugural walk.

“To hear the prayers, see the messaging is one thing, but to see 1,200 to 1,500 people in front of you, hugging you and saying hi, or just making that eye contact, it’s uplifting,” John said. “It gives us some peace, and we know that we’re not walking alone in this journey, as we walk with others that have the same struggles in the community. We’re not the only family here with a loss or losses. … (It’s) a beautiful morning and a very peaceful vibe in the air for our family, and I know many families across the community as well can share that same feeling.”

John attended Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills before eventually receiving a Master’s of Taxation degree from Wayne State University.

He has been a tax accountant, with a focus on corporate international taxes, for approximately 30 years.

John credited Ann for the way that she has “held it together as a wife and as a mom” despite all that she has endured.

He also shared a message for others who have lost children.

“It’s very easy to build walls and isolate yourself, but at the same time, it’s very raw, painful and difficult. I would say continue to maintain the faith, trust and believe in God, but also open your heart and yourselves to people around you that can support you, that love you, that you can confide in and be able to lean on them,” John said. “And I think with the beautiful community that we have, having a support system around you goes a long way to be able to get back on your feet and try to advance to the best of your ability on this Earth.”

Ann also offered words of encouragement for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

“To those people that are going through a loss, just hang in there,” she said. “People tell you that time will heal. I’m gonna be honest: Time does not heal — you just learn to live with the pain. Keep your faith, and God will be there to give you that strength. That’s where I get my strength from every day.”

Both John and Ann acknowledged the volunteers who have helped to support the Stride for Seminarians Walk.

To register, volunteer, donate or be a sponsor, visit alexandgabby.com.