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Taking back North End streets

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Police Chief Devon Clunis and MLA Kevin Chief lead Norquay students in a warm-up before running through the neighbourhood.

JESSICA BURTNICK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Police Chief Devon Clunis and MLA Kevin Chief lead Norquay students in a warm-up before running through the neighbourhood. Photo Store

NEVER count out Kevin Chief.

Chief, MLA for Point Douglas and minister of children and youth opportunities, was attacked in February while running across the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge. He was repeatedly kicked in the head and upper body, chipping two of his teeth and breaking his nose.

His attackers were never caught.

On Friday morning, Chief helped kick off the first annual Run with the Chiefs Community Fun Run at Norquay School in Point Douglas.

After the assault, Chief says he felt ashamed of his community and wanted to keep the incident to himself.

"I was thinking 'How do I not tell people about this?' I was embarrassed of my community," said Chief.

Today, the MLA couldn't be more proud of his beloved North End.

"We're more connected through vulnerabilities than strengths and other people's stories really helped me out," said Chief. "During the toughest times, people reach out the most."

Chief believes the event will support the community for years and will keep future generations out of trouble.

"We're supporting the police service and vibrant communities. We're preventing crime before it happens," he said.

Another participant in the three-kilometre run was police Chief Devon Clunis, who left his badge at home and had some fun by leading Norquay students in a Gangnam Style dance before the run.

Over 400 people gathered in the school gym to kick off the event, led by Clunis and Chief.

"We're coming together to build a safer community," said Clunis. "We're thinking about the future and instilling principles from the beginning that we (the police) are approachable."

The run included both seniors and youth, who ran to promote a safer community and demonstrate a commitment to preventing crime.

"We're all here together, we belong together," said Wendy Hallgrimson, program co-ordinator for the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre. "The North End is where my heart is."

Hallgrimson and a group of youth initiated the run a few weeks ago to support Chief after his assault.

Hallgrimson said Chief has been a huge mentor to her and she felt the need to show her support.

"We're here for him because he grew up in the hood, too," she said.

Runners weren't the only ones who came out to support the cause. Dozens of volunteers helped out as well.

"This is a good example of how things could change for the better," said Elaine Ranville. "When the kids see police officers, they think it's a good thing."

Ranville already feels the community has changed for the better and she, too, will continue to hit the streets in her neighbourhood.

"The area used to be really bad," said the Point Douglas resident. "Now people can walk the street at night because it's our area."

elizabeth.fraser@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 A10

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