“Free” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but when its for a cause such as this, there isn’t much skepticism behind the term.
The Jim Ciccone Civic Centre hosted its first Saturday night open-doored youth program, which involves programs such as free ball hockey, skateboarding, basketball, rock-climbing, yoga, first-aid, arts and crafts and badminton and even instrumental music lessons.
The sessions, which run from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, are aimed at youth who would otherwise be inactive, or roaming the streets during the summer months, even on occasion, smashing windows, says Marc Page, a member of the Prince Rupert recreation commission.
“We’re really pushing to get more people out to work with the kids,” said Page, who had 15-20 kids come out to the first session, who mainly participated in skateboarding.
One program volunteer came out to teach guitar lessons, but there wasn’t much interest from the kids who were present.
“We’re hoping to get more volunteers on board so we can offer more programs for kids, say a basketball tournament or a ball-hockey tournament or if there’s any music lessons or even a yoga instructor that might be interested, we just need to target … different groups of kids so that we’re not just targeting the skateboarders,” said Page.
The Rupertite noticed a concerning trend of smashed windows a few years ago throughout downtown businesses and pleaded with city council to find a solution to the problem.
Council reportedly responded with the message that it’s a social issue, and that immediate remedies would be difficult to fund and enforce, other than an increased nightly police presence. Page’s idea for free youth programs on weekend nights was produced from these talks.
The Loaded Sports business owner is seeking anyone interested in helping to produce a vibrant and productive youth community to volunteer for any of these Saturday nights. Page would have preferred to include Friday nights as well but the commission was only given the green light for Saturdays due to the centre’s rental fees.
A Facebook group called “Volunteer for Healthy Kids” has been established to gather a base of volunteers and anyone with an expertise in any area that can pass along their knowledge to the kids who show up to the free sessions.
“If you want to look that up, you can join that group and keep yourself informed on what we’re doing, and get a little bit more information on the history and why the group was started,” said Page.