It's not every day in this business your sports editor calls to tell you your column will be overseen by Mikhail Gorbachev.
As part of his participation in We Day today, Gorbachev was asked to serve as special guest editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, and thereby determined my column will loosely follow his theme at this event, and explain specifically how sports can benefit and impact today's youth.
It just so happens I will be hosting the fourth annual Doug Brown KidSport Winnipeg Football camp on April 20, 2013, so I have a little firsthand knowledge to impart.
Before we go there, though, the lessons of how sport benefits youth became most apparent to me in 2010. During one of his weekly sermons, former head coach Paul LaPolice had the team participate in an exercise where we went to the front of our meeting room and revealed to each other who we trusted most. Not surprisingly, most of the players trusted one parent or the other, but what was shocking was the number that disclosed how their lives were immeasurably improved by the emphasis these parents placed on their participation in sport.
By the time the entire roster had shared with the team, it was incredible how many players felt that without the opportunity given to them to play football or other sports, their lives would have been negatively impacted to the same degree as others they grew up with who ended up in gangs, incarcerated, or dead.
During my upbringing, I didn't have the same immediacy of danger around me as many of my former teammates, but these testimonials revealed the positive impact that sport has on your life. Most of the friends I made when I was young were on some sort of team with me. In my free time I participated in activities that not only taught me about teamwork and sportsmanship, but benefited my health and physical well-being at the same time. Regardless of whether they end up making a living from playing a sport, having youth participate in organized activities familiarizes them with group dynamics and introduces them to competition and camaraderie.
As an overtly aggressive youngster, sports provided me with a constructive and positive outlet to channel this rambunctiousness, and it instilled a work ethic that carried me throughout my career.
The reason KidSport is such a great organization and a natural fit for me, is that we both have the same understanding of how critical it is for youth to be active and engaged in sport. Their sole mandate is to remove as many obstacles and barriers as possible, financial or otherwise, so that all kids have the opportunity to play.
To date, KidSport has helped almost 6,000 children in Winnipeg by distributing almost three quarters of a million dollars to remove financial barriers, and it has proven to have a lasting effect. A recent study revealed 65 per cent of the kids that have received this financial assistance to participate in activities, remain involved in sport some three years later.
In fact, KidSport has been so successful at accomplishing their goals of involving kids in sport, they are now in dire need of further funding. This year saw an increase in financial support to kids of over $40,000 from 2011, so they need to increase their fundraising to accommodate this trend. All the funds donated in Winnipeg stay in Winnipeg, and donations can be sent to the attention of Christine Hoenisch at KidSport Winnipeg, 145 Pacific Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R3B 2Z6, payable to KidSport Canada-Manitoba, or online at https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/KidSportCanada/OnlineDonation.html.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.