Montreal community at heart | The power of sports in youth

Dozens of people, young and old, gathered at the Georges Saint-Pierre Garden in Montreal on Saturday morning. They walked together. for kids. In order to remind everyone, two years after the pandemic, of the power of sport in youth development.

Posted at 4:19 p.m.

Catherine Harvey Benard

Catherine Harvey Benard

It was about 10 a.m. when people began arriving in small groups into the park in the Notre-Dame-de-Grês district to take part in the Power of Sport Walk-a-Thon. An initiative of the Montreal Community Heart Foundation and the Red Rush Basketball Leadership Program.

Upon arrival, everyone received a white jacket with a photo of the event on it and immediately put it on. Near the meeting place, on the basketball court, some young people took advantage of the sun and waited before the start of the event to throw some balls at the basket.

This great meeting is the work of Denbork Reed, CEO of Communauté Montréal à Cœur. The 42-year-old makes his life goal to help socially vulnerable youth. Through its foundation and programs, it helps them to face the challenges they face.

Reed himself had a difficult childhood. I got away with it thanks to the sport. “When I see young people, I see myself in them,” he says. During the pandemic, he was aware of the difficulties many young people face.

“They were at home doing nothing. All they could do was take to the streets. The effect of the street is really strong. It’s like running away.”

“We want to use sport to put young people in a healthy environment where they can succeed,” he continues. Today, wok-a-thon, that’s the goal. I gather all my friends who have used sports for success in life to come and help us. We unite our voices to tell people who come for a walk that sports have a power more powerful than just sweating. »

Among those friends were Montreal Aloet coach Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alliance general manager Joel Anthony, and former WBO middleweight champion Otis Grant.

Anthony Calvillo also had a difficult childhood. He had to contend with a violent and alcoholic father as well as an older brother who had been dragged into street gangs.

“When I was young, sports were my foundation, my motivation,” he says. This is what kept me in school. […] Most of my coaches became my father’s characters. They helped me not only as an athlete, but also as an individual. They were there for me. Sports had a huge impact on my life. »

“For me, it has always been important to give back as much as possible because the money is needed,” he adds. If it wasn’t for all the people who helped me as I got older, I don’t know if I could have accomplished all I’ve accomplished. »

At the time of this article’s publication, more than $125,000–of the $200,000 goal–has been raised through Walk-a-Thon. The funds will be used, among other things, to support the development of the Foundation’s programs, which are specifically aimed at providing better training to coaches and athletes participating in organizations and schools in need.

Everyone has their own challenges

Denburk Reid launched the Red Rush Basketball Leadership Program in 2005 to provide young people with access to mentors who support them athletically and academically.

“It’s not my role. I call it a movement, he says. We have nearly 300 young people from different schools and different neighborhoods all over Montreal. Using their passion for basketball, we can help them get a Safe place. Here you will see guys of different languages, of different origins, but when they see each other, they are a family. »

Among the hundred youngsters on site was Julien Legonde-le Claire, who had been part of the Red Rush basketball program for four years. Two years into the pandemic, the 14-year-old was not asked to attend the Marche-o-Thon.

“It was tough because we didn’t have teams. We were alone at home, we couldn’t see our friends,” he says, adding that basketball is a “big part” of his life. It is his passion.

His mother, Isabelle Le Clair, is the first to be able to confirm this.

“Everyone has his way, his way, his challenges. But Julian got through those challenges thanks to basketball and the community that surrounded him.

She adds, “At 14 and 6’2” you have to move. In confinement I can tell you I have prints on the ceiling! […] To have this space where he can express himself, be himself, where he is understood… when you have that size, when your teacher is younger than you…”

“He is surrounded by a community of men who understand him, who also grew up very quickly, who also stumbled up to the age of 15-16, and who had a hard time finding clothes of the right size. It is important, it is reassuring to them.”

During the pandemic, his son has been able to keep in touch with other basketball players in the Montreal Heart community via weekly video conferences. “They had seminars on nationality and identity,” she recalls, visibly grateful.

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