Montreal sports figures came together at Georges-Saint-Pierre park in the city’s NDG borough on Saturday afternoon in the first-ever “power of sports walk-a-thon.”
The event was to help raise funds in support of the Montreal Community Cares Foundation, an organization that emphasizes the importance of sports in the youth community.
MCCF Founder Denburk Reid says the last two years have really highlighted the importance of community and mental health awareness.
“We’ve seen the ramifications of the kids being on shutdown,” he said. “We saw a rise in youth violence, we saw a rise in depression, we saw a rise in suicide attempts that people don’t really talk about.”
Saturday’s walk-a-thon brought together some of Montreal’s most well-known athletes and community leaders, including NDG city councilor Peter McQueen.
“We’re so happy to see this large crowd here this morning on this beautiful day,” McQueen said.
Former Alouettes Quarter Back Anthony Calvillo also came out. He was part of a similar program growing up in southern California.
“If it wasn’t for all the volunteer coaches that coached all the kids in the neighbourhood, there is no way I would have been able to achieve anything,” he said.
“It set a huge foundation for me as an athlete and as a person. To be here in Montreal now and to be part of an organization that’s pretty much doing the exact same thing is crucial for the success of the youth.”
The event not only served as a fundraiser for several organizations but as a reminder of how sports can help kids find their way.
Julien Ligonde Le Clair, 14, says sports gives him a sense of community.
“It’s like a family. There’s people to be there for you and to help you in your life, to be like a better person,” he said. It also taught him to give back to his community.
“We have the big guys here. They helped me, so definitely I want to be there for the little guys too.”
Verdun City Councillor Sterling Downey said it was important for him to come out and support the cause, especially after being locked down.
”It obviously had an impact on their mental health,” said Downey.
“We need community leaders, we need mentors in our community to come out and work with our youth and work in our schools, work in our community centres, work with our municipalities.”
By Saturday afternoon, over $125,000 was raised. The money will go to several foundations and will help for a variety of reasons including providing more services, equipment and renting field or gym space.