By Darren Lum
Published April 11 2017
Robin Carmount smiles as he looks across the room where more than 20 boys and girls from Grade 4 to 8 laugh and shriek with delight playing ball hockey. They’re using equipment purchased with money donated by the Rotary Club of Haliburton.
“It totally exceeded my expectations. At Archie Stouffer [Elementary School] I think there are 400 kids. We’re getting 10 a week showing up there. This school is like 75 kids so we’re getting 30 per cent of the school coming out. If that was Minden that would be 100 kids” he said.
Carmount started a similar event a weekly evening of recreation for children at ASES a few years ago.
This was the third installment of the biweekly event in Wilberforce. There is no admission fee because Highlands East council waived the building fee. Youth Night is held the first and third Tuesdays each month from 6:30 until 8 p.m. at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Centre in Wilberforce (except holidays and snow days).
The centre is booked until the end of May when outdoor activities become more popular. It resumes in September.
The night also offers dodge ball and a parachute – used in a group activity where everyone holds the circular nylon material. Youth are also invited to come and get out of the house whether it’s to read or play board games in the room adjacent to the main area.
As an OPP officer for 22 years Carmount says this offering give youth a place to go have fun and be active. He’s already noticed self-confidence developing in participants.
“What made it really good was last week or two weeks ago there were kids coming out that were really really shy that didn’t want to get involved – they were clinging to Mom or Dad – and by the end of the night they were right in there playing floor hockey and dodge ball” he said.
Carmount appreciated the community support which also includes County Sign and Display and the Source in Haliburton. He said this event is part of the OPP’s outreach effort which also includes annual hockey games between students and a police team held in Wilberforce Haliburton and Minden.
Like in Minden he’d like to have high school students come and help out for volunteer hours but also to mentor the younger children. Those interested in volunteering can contact vice-principal Barb Davies at the Wilberforce Elementary School or Carmount at the Haliburton Highlands detachment.
Davies said she assisted by clearing up any related “red tape” with Trillium Lakelands District School Board. Initially she was interested in finding funds to repair a basketball net at her school. It resulted in discussions with Carmount about running a youth night in Wilberforce.
As a result of this night local youth have something to do at a time when the ground is still wet and the temperature is near freezing which discourages physical activity; a time when organized activities such as baseball skating and ice hockey aren’t running.
“They’re physically active for an hour and a half as opposed to being bored doing nothing or watching TV … they are forming friendships and are happy. It gives them something to look forward to” Davies said.
It encourages co-operation and builds social and communication skills. At school children are talking about it. They encourage one another to come she said.
Carmount and Davies say if the demand is there the event could grow to add more dates.
However it will require more adult volunteers than OPP Const. Tim Negus who was in street clothes this evening or area resident Gene Hughes who lives down the road with his girlfriend and her two children who came out for the fun.
Originally from Peterborough Hughes said volunteering isn’t difficult and is beneficial to children’s development.
“Sports are a good avenue for them to express whatever they’re feeling. That’s how I started when I was younger. I had someone do this for me” he said of recreation volunteer Doug Anderson.
Hughes volunteers with the local baseball league in the summer and moved to the area two years ago to be with his girlfriend.
Rotary Club of Haliburton president Richard van Nood said their $2000 donation which virtually funded the entire year was made after a conversation with Carmount. This led to a formal request by Carmount and then the approval of the club’s board members.
“It sounded like a great program and he’s volunteering his time. We don’t want to get in the way” van Nood said. The money came from the club’s annual car draw raffle.
The contribution was just part of the club’s mandate to help the community – in this case the youth.
“We sponsor youth in many ways so the more you can give them to do the more rounded the individual is going to be” he said. “A lot of people say ‘it keeps them out of trouble.’ Of course it keeps them out of trouble but it gives them something positive to do. They’re having fun. They’re getting fit.”