A partnership between four lakecity organizations is working to bring youth together through sport.
Changing Directions, Denisiqi Services Society, the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District and the Williams Lake RCMP have, since October and running every second Friday, been hosting free, drop-in ice hockey for youth at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Any given Friday will see upwards of 15 to 20 players — a mixture of local youth aged 13-18, youth workers and local RCMP — all smiling and having fun together through the game of hockey.
Changing Directions program manager Crystal Wells, who has been involved with the program since its inception, said the partnership between the four organizations began three years ago, initiated by the Williams Lake RCMP and the BGCWLD.
“It provides a safe place for youth to be active and make or build relationships with community agencies,” Wells said, noting she’s seen so many positives come out of the program.
“The main reason we started it was to create relationships with the RMCP and youth, but it’s just been so good. You see kids that would never interact outside of the rink interacting with each other, and that’s nice to see.
“We’ve even seen a lot of people who’d never even skated before come out and play, so it’s been a really open environment for everyone — just the relationships built with all agencies and leaders has been a really positive one.”
The initiative has been such a success over the years partners have also launched a spring time ball hockey spin-off, which begins during the second week of April.
Wells noted not only are the drop-in ice hockey sessions a lot of fun for the youth, but said RCMP also really enjoy participating and creating positive relationships with the players.
“They really like playing,” Wells said, noting usually a handful of RCMP members drop in to play.
“And the kids really enjoy being on the ice with them.”
Williams Lake RCMP Const. Dan Cohen said it’s great to see, and fun to be a part of.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for us as police officers to interact with some of the youth in the community. Whenever we get a chance to do that and make a positive impression on the youth — I think that’s a good thing.”
On the last drop-in ice hockey session Wells said a fun, mini all-star day was organized including contests for fastest skater, hardest shot and shooting accuracy.
Spring ball hockey will run April 10, April 17, May 1, May 15, May 29, June 12 and June 19 at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex and is free to everyone. Sessions run from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.