North End Winnipeg man hopes to offer youth an outlet with basketballs

WINNIPEG — Lenard Monkman faced several dangerous distractions while growing up in the North End.

“There’s drugs, gangs, alcohol, violence,” said Monkman. “A lot of tempations that people can fall on the wrong path.”

Luckily for him, there was basketball.

“It’s always kept me away from everything that was detrimental to being a youth in the North End,” said Monkman.

The sport helped the now 30-year-old stay focused and out of trouble.

“Once I started playing, I started to take it really seriously,” said Monkman. “I was playing seven days a week.”

He now hopes it will do the same for others. Monkman has started a campaign to collect 100 basketballs to distribute to youth in the area. But within weeks, he shot past his goal and now has more than 200 to give away.

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“If people have something they’re passionate about it saves a lot of trouble from their lives,” said Monkman.

The campaign’s main goal is to help provide an outlet for kids and also introduce them to an active lifestyle. But Monkman also hopes it will bring organized sports to the North End.

“We would like for people to identify that these kids are athletes and we have to nurture our athletes,” said Monkman. “There’s a lot of good athletes here that just need a little guidance.”

Helping them grow both on and off the court.

“We want people to step out of their comfort zones and say I am an indigenous role model,” said Monkman. “My life is not perfect but what we’re going to try and do is volunteer in our community and try to make the city a better place.”

Monkman will hand out the basketballs on May 31 following a basketball game between the Neechi Commons All-Stars and Winnipeg Police Service at the Ralph Brown outdoor hockey rink. For more information or to make a donation, contact Monkman at or 204-891-8515.