What began two months ago as an idea on Facebook is about to become a reality for Lenard Monkman, a young Aboriginal man who has spent 25 of his 29 years in the North End.
The idea was this:
How do we jumpstart basketball in the North End and help keep kids out of trouble? Let’s give away 100 basketballs.
The first step was getting 100 basketballs. Monkman reached out to Basketball Manitoba and to Michael Champagne of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO), who in turn hooked him up with all the North End organizations he knew of.
Monkman had always thought it would be cool to play basketball against the Winnipeg Police and that dream is coming true, as well.
Not only did Chief Devon Clunis agree to let the department’s basketball team play, a conversation he had led to 100 basketballs being immediately ordered for the initiative by an anonymous donor.
Now, along with 50 basketballs from Basketball Manitoba and more from individual donors, Monkman’s goal of 100 basketballs has been doubled — and the North End Community Renewal Corporation’s (NECRC) Odd Jobs program will be working to renew basketball courts in the neighbourhood.
Monkman’s effort will culminate in Family Fun Day at Ralph Brown Community Centre on Sun., May 31.
Running from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. activities include a 3-on-3 basketball tournament from noon to 3 p.m.; the Winnipeg Police versus Monkman and a Neechi
Commons All-Stars team at 3 p.m., followed by speeches and the basketball giveaway.
Two hundred tickets for basketballs will be distributed during the day on a first-come, first-served basis. There will be a barbecue, music and family activities all day.
Why is Monkman so passionate about helping kids in the North End through basketball?
Basketball was what helped him, he says. In high school, he played every day. It was an outlet, helping take his mind off negative things. The competition, the constant challenge to improve the discipline of practise and the leadership skills he developed were a positive force in his life.
When he stopped playing, his life went downhill quickly. A turning point came when he faced jail time. Now he’s working, attending university and this project has kept him busier than he thought.
"I didn’t think it would be this big," he said. "I didn’t think it would be this much work."
If anyone would like to donate new or gently-used shorts, jerseys, and shoes, or if businesses would like to donate prizes, contact Lenard at 204-891-8515 or lenard
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at email@example.com
North End community correspondent
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End.