In most social circles, you’d be hard pressed to find youth who would want to hang out with, let alone get to know personally, their teachers, youth workers or local RCMP.
But a group in Williams Lake is proving that anything is possible through the game of hockey.
“Me personally, my own story when I was a youth, I got into a little bit of trouble when I was young and that was partly because I didn’t have anything to do. It was out of pure boredom,” said Williams Lake RCMP Const. Colby Hendrickson, who came up with the idea to engage with youth through sports five years ago.
“It’s about getting out on a Friday, getting some exercise, and for these kids, being around some of the RCMP and seeing that we are just human and let’s have some fun together.”
Judging by the smiles on the faces of youth in attendance, such as 17-year-old Keano William, who came out last Friday afternoon to play, Hendrickson’s plan is working.
“I like how they let everyone play,” William said from the bench, between shifts. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, your skill level or if you have money, you just show up and have fun. And it’s nice that it’s free.”
William, who was invited to play by a friend, said he also took part in the game to meet new people.
“I like having that group of people who all like to have fun doing the same thing.”
Hendrickson attributes the success of the program to many partners, such as local First Nations communities and youth support worker Michael Archie of Changing Directions, who all split the cost.
Archie, who also got on the ice with the youth, along with other mentors such as LCSS principal Gregg Gaylord, said it’s important for youth and the RCMP and service providers to build positive relationships.
“This is another way to get in a positive activity,” he said, noting he also organizes ball hockey and video game nights.
Archie said anyone at any age can be at risk in life, but engaging in positive activities and building positive relationships all helps.
“All these guys, these officers, are awesome, and the youth are too, they are our future,” Archie said.
“This is huge. It’s so important to bridge the gap with our youth.”
Archie and Hendrickson said they plan to offer an afternoon hockey match-up every second Friday throughout the winter months.