Montreal Community at Heart | The power of sport in young people

Several dozen people, young and old, gathered at Montreal’s Georges-Saint-Pierre Park Saturday morning. They walked together. For children. To remind everyone, after two years of pandemic, the power of sport in the development of young people.

Posted at 16:19

Katherine Harvey Pinard

Katherine Harvey Pinard
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It was around 10 in the morning when people started arriving in small groups at the park in the municipality of Côte-des-Neiges – Notre-Dame-de-Grâce to participate in the Power of Sport Walk-a-Thon. . An initiative of the Montreal Hearts Community Foundation and its Red Rush basketball program.

Upon arrival, everyone received and immediately donned a white jersey for the event. Very close to the meeting place, on the basketball court, some young people took advantage of the sun and the wait before the start of the event to throw a few balls for the basket.

This grand meeting is the work of Denburk Reid, Executive Director of the Montreal Hearts Community Foundation. The 42-year-old has set his life’s goal to help socially vulnerable young people. Through his foundation and programs, he helps them meet the challenges they face.

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

[Les jeunes] they were at home doing nothing. All they could do was go to the street. The influence of the street is really strong. It’s like an escape.

Denburk Reid, Executive Director of the Montreal Hearts Community Foundation

“We want to use sport to put young people in a healthy environment where they can be successful,” he continues. Today, Marche-o-Thon, this is the goal. I invite all my friends who have used sport to be successful in life to come and help us. Let’s join our voices to tell people who come to walk that sport has a more powerful power than just sweating. ”

These friends included Montreal Alouettes quarterback coach Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alliance general manager Joel Anthony and former WBO middleweight champion Otis Grant.

Anthony Calvillo also had a difficult childhood. He has dealt with an abusive, alcoholic father and an older brother who has been dragged into street gangs.

“When I was young, sport was my foundation, my motivation,” he says. This is what kept me in school. […] Most of my coaches have become my parents’ figures. Not only have they helped me as an athlete, but also as an individual. They were there for me. Sport has had a big impact on my life. ”

“For me, it has always been important to give back as much as possible because funds are needed,” he adds. If it weren’t for all those people who have helped me as I get older, I don’t know if I could have accomplished everything I’ve accomplished. ”

At the time of this article’s publication, more than $ 125,000 – out of a $ 200,000 goal – had been raised through the Walk-a-Thon. The money will be used, among other things, to support the development of the Foundation’s programs, which aim in particular to provide better training for coaches and athletes involved in struggling organizations and schools.

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 a league. I call it movement, he says. We have nearly 300 young people from different schools, different neighborhoods all over Montreal. Using their passion for basketball, we can help them have a safe space. Here you will see young people who speak different languages, of different origins, but when they see each other it is a family. ”

Among the hundred young people present on site was Julien Ligondé-Le Clair, who has been part of the Red Rush basketball program for four years. After two years of pandemic, it was not necessary to ask the young 14-year-old to report to the Marche-o-Thon.

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

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

“Everyone has their own path, path, challenges. But Julien overcame these challenges thanks to basketball, to the community around him, “she says.

“At 14 and 6’2″, you have to move, he adds. In confinement, I can tell you I had fingerprints on the ceiling! […] Having this space where he can express himself, be himself, where he can be understood … When you have that dimension, when your teachers are smaller than you … ”

“He’s surrounded by this community of kids who understand him, who also grew up too fast, who even stumbled to the age of 15-16, who had a hard time finding the right size clothes. It’s important, it’s reassuring for them. ”

During the pandemic, his son was able to keep in touch with other basketball players from the Montreal Community at Heart via weekly video conferences. “They held seminars on citizenship, on identity,” she recalls, visibly grateful.

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