Last October, four Battlefords North Stars players went to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside for a weekend to see the effects of drug and alcohol abuse first-hand, an experience which they then spoke to local children about. This week, local RCMP officers recognized the players' contributions.
Logan Nachtegaele, Kendall Fransoo, Connor Sych and Troy Gerein were all presented with framed certificates and RCMP hats Thursday, June 2 as a token of appreciation. Assistant Coach Braeden Johnson was also part of the trip, but was unable to attend this week's event.
“These guys are the first SJHL team to participate in this,” Corporal Derek Eberle said. “We take players out to Vancouver and tour the lower east side where they have an opportunity to interact with people who are battling addictions. What they’re told out there they bring back and turn into classroom presentations.”
The idea was started by Odd Squad Productions in Vancouver in 1997 as a charitable organization that helps to deliver reality-based education on the consequences of engaging in risky behaviour to students in Vancouver. The project has now spread across the country. Eberle and Constable Colby Rennie of the North Battleford RCMP Detachment first approached the North Stars to team up and educate the youth.
Eberle said while RCMP officers do their own presentations for things of this nature, he feels it’s important for role models such as hockey players to experience it themselves so they can relay the information to school kids who look up to them. He adds the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League have participated in the program for years.
“It was a really good opportunity and we were all excited to do it,” North Stars defenceman Connor Sych said. “It’s hard to describe what we saw. It was almost like a third-world country out there; people lying on the ground and homeless people everywhere. You couldn’t help but feel bad for them.”
Sych said Johnson was a catalyst in getting his players to take part in the program. When they spoke to students, Sych commented it was a little worrying to see how much the kids already knew about drug abuse, cementing how important this program is. He finished by saying if they can get through to one kid to help them make better choices, the program is a complete success.
“When I got here it was very evident this was a factor in the communities we service,” Eberle said. “I’m hoping we’re setting the groundwork for years to come. These guys did their team and community a huge kudos.”
Eberle was involved in the program for six years before relocating to the Battlefords.
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