'Make it more accessible': Walk-a-thon raises awareness about importance of youth sports

Montreal sports lovers came together Saturday in the NDG borough to raise awareness about the importance of youth sports when it comes to mental health and community connection.

At the Power of Sports Walk-a-Thon, young athletes strolled alongside the likes of Alouettes quarterback coach Anthony Calvillo and pro basketball player Tevonn Walker.

The event raised over $125,000.

The funds will go to Montreal Community Cares, an organization that promotes youth sports, most known for its Red Rush basketball program.

Tevonn Walker has long been involved with Montreal Community Cares, joining the program when he was just 12 years old.

Since then, he's travelled the world playing basketball, and he credits community sports for making him the person he is today.

"When one door closes, a lot of people don't have any outlets to turn to," he told CTV News. "This program helps you make those doors open, build those relationships, and then all of a sudden you have choices, you have opportunity."

He hopes youth in NDG will have the same opportunities that were given to him through sports.

"Playing with Red Rush was kind of, was a way for me to build a family outside of my home."

RISE IN TEEN VIOLENCE

Sports were one of the first activities to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Advocates say its ripple effects have been disastrous, with the province witnessing a sharp rise in youth violence.

Montreal saw at least five teens killed in youth-related violence over the past year and a half.

Volleyball plater Thyah Tavarez, who is a teen herself, said she and her friends are still healing.

"During the pandemic, a lot of teenagers started doing gang violence, guns shooting, all of that," she said.

"It was very emotionally tiring because I know we can be better than that."

In response to the violence, the City of Montreal has invested more than $7 million into youth programming and sports.

Denburk Reid, founder of Montreal Community Cares, wants the existed facilities to be renovated and, more importantly, for the programming to be made financially accessible to families.

"It's not about building something," he said."Rejuvenate a gym [...] but open it up to the community."

"Just make it more accessible." 

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