I grew up on the B.C. coast from Tofino to Bella Coola and programs for youth were always nonexistent unless there was someone in the community with a skill. I learned boxing from Dave Stone, Judo from Murdo McCloud, baseball from Rud Batty, badminton from Anne MacDonald. These sports had a positive effect on me. No one asked for money, we just showed up. I took over junior badminton in Port McNeill somewhere in the early 80s. 30 to 40 kids played every year, lots of stories. The numbers have dropped due to less jobs in logging. All sports cost money now so the last 10 years I have mixed youth and adult badminton together. I have lost some of the adult players and they are the ones who pay to play, covering the cost of birds, nets, and rackets. School District 85 always supplied the gym. I had a key in the early 80s, and up until 1988 I would go up on a rainy Sunday and the gym would be full. We had no problems, no damage, and we always cleaned up. That was taken away. A janitor would have to let us in and we had no weekend use. We ran like that for years, no problems, and our numbers would go up and down. We were on an up last year with around 20 kids. I am learning kids like to do things on their own so I teach a game called King of the Court. This new generation likes to create their own version and have fun. When they want to learn something, they ask and it works. The kids love playing with the adults and the adults that come out enjoy the kids. It’s a win/win. I’m 72 now and it’s time to pass this on. Here is what I am passing on — two nights a week with two hours of volunteer time. The school now wants an hourly charge, insurance costs, and a teacher there. We were left out in the rain six times last year and I had to get a janitor to open gym. I have no problem with the extra costs, I live in a very generous community. We just put a climbing wall in the gym that cost over $100,000 and it is only available if a teacher is available to volunteer. They paid to train two teachers last year and one moved away this year. They should have trained the grade 10 kids instead, that way we get two years of service and they have something under their belt. So a badminton program is lost, the gym sits idle, no indoor soccer, no basketball, no volleyball, no floor hockey, and a climbing wall with a problem. One certified person won’t work. I have checked and nothing is going on in the gym at night, but hopefully this will change. I am sure there would be efforts to use it if insurance will allow that to happen. My reason for this letter is to get these facilities back into the hands of the communities. We have many people in our community who have years of training in whatever is needed and we have to connect them with our youth, because they need ‘more to do’ then just sitting. People running the system have forgotten we get our money back by better preparing people who are leaving school and entering the workforce. High schools are open 190 days a year and closed at night. I think we need a commission to look at this. We are talking about a multipurpose facility that should be serving our community. The high school is paid for by taxpayers and is not serving the community that is here 365 days a year. We need to look at this, otherwise these facilities will fall behind the times and become a cost that cannot be justified. The community will be moving on without the school district and we are already seeing more and more kids move towards home schooling. We need more availability for the community and we need more community ideas, or else we will fall behind. There is talk now of removing the climbing wall and putting it somewhere more public where the kids will have more access. Our hockey program produces players from here as we have the access to ice rinks for our kids. We should be doing better in all sports and badminton is the second biggest sport in the world next to soccer. It offers scholarships to talented players, an opportunity that very well could be lost now for rural kids. We live off the backs of those who go before us, not some policy that makes someone’s life easier. And as a closing remark, it makes me angry hearing school board employees selling insurance. Think about that. Who are they working for?
Councillor Graham MacDonald