Friday, 22 February 2013 07:04

Kennedy inspires youth at The Centre

Written by  Jessi Gowan
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Kids of all ages came out to The Center on Feb 15 for a special opportunity to speak with former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy. Kennedy answered questions from the young audience and spoke frankly about his own experiences with abuse and addiction. Kids of all ages came out to The Center on Feb 15 for a special opportunity to speak with former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy. Kennedy answered questions from the young audience and spoke frankly about his own experiences with abuse and addiction.

The Center offered a wonderful chance for youth to enjoy an intimate question and answer session with former Swift Current Bronco Sheldon Kennedy on Feb. 15.


After Kennedy briefly discussed some of his struggles with abuse and addiction, children had the opportunity to ask Kennedy personal questions about some of his experiences.
“I thought this might be a good place for me to come and share a few words,” Kennedy explained. “I think that places like this where kids can feel safe are hugely important for communities, and I think that if I can show up and be of support of a place like that, it’s the least I can do.”
Although Kennedy tried to avoid making the discussion too heavy, he made sure to touch on issues Swift Current youth might be facing — troubles with the law, drugs and alcohol, and abuse and bullying. His hope is by openly talking about these issues, youth will feel more comfortable doing the same.
“It’s hard because I know these kids are here to have fun, but a lot of it is just about making sure that they know that if there are things going on in their lives, whatever it might be, that it’s important to talk it out, speak up, and that it can get better,” he noted. “I think that really, it’s about hope. We’ve got to keep giving our kids hope that life can be good, because sometimes for a lot of kids, it doesn’t seem like it will ever be good.”
Kennedy left books at The Center for youth to read, and is confident his young audience was able to understand the meaning behind his visit. However, he admitted he was also aiming to get through to the adults in the crowd, as well.
“I think the most important piece in there is the adults, because even though this is a great place for kids, if we’re not educated and understand what we need to be doing as adults, we’re not really doing our job,” said Kennedy. “We always tell kids to tell a grown up, they’ve been hearing that message for years. But the reality is, do we understand, as adults, what abuse, bullying, and harassment is? Do we know what our legal and moral responsibilities are?”
He went to explain staff and volunteers of The Center hold an important role in the lives of many local youth who frequent the facility, and they could be the only trusted adults in those children’s lives. For the mental health of these young people, it’s important for kids to have a good outlet.
“When you look at a group of kids like this, we’d be pretty naive to think that they’re all in pretty good shape,” admitted Kennedy. “We see kids killing themselves all the time because of bullying or abuse issues, and we look at the drugs and the alcohol, and I just think that it’s so important that kids have a place like this, where they enjoy being.”
On Feb. 15, the Manitoba Court of Appeal increased Kennedy’s molester Graham James’ sentence from two years to five years. James was found guilty of sexual assault on the former Bronco as well as Todd Holt who also happened to be in Swift Current (for a Broncos’ alumni game) Feb. 15-16.

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