Some Penticton Vees scored a big victory with students in Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos school districts and on Wednesday they received a special thank you.
The Grade 6 class of Oliver Elementary School stopped by the team’s dressing room at the South Okanagan Events Centre to present Nic Jones, Owen Sillinger, Jared Nash and Nolan Hildebrand with warm scarves they knitted themselves and that will eventually make their way to those less fortunate living in Vancouver’s downtown east side.
The four members of the Vees were part of the Okanagan Correctional Centre program to help deliver the message about the dangers of drugs to students in the region.
That included a trip by the players and corrections staff to the downtown east side to see and hear first hand from the people who live and frequent the location.
They also received help from the people of Odd Squad Productions in Vancouver.
That non-profit society is dedicated to educating the community, especially youth, about the dangers of drug use and criminal behaviour through reality-based documentaries.
The Oliver class was so moved by the suffering of those on the east side they decided to make the scarves.
“We did it because those people in Vancouver really needed the scarves, because I saw on the news it’s record-breaking cold and we wanted to do something nice for the people in Vancouver,” said 11-year-old Cole Sykes.
And about the Vees presentation about the dangers of drug use he said: “That taught me to stay away from drugs and peer pressure and stuff. I could have heard it (message) from a police officer, the Vees or anyone and I would still have got the message but it was really cool to meet the Vees at our school.”
Classmate Sophia Barbieri, 11, agreed: “It was amazingly awesome learning about drugs and that you shouldn’t take them.”
For Vees captain Nic Jones the experience both seeing the conditions in Vancouver and being able to relay the message to the kids, made a big impact on him personally.
“I was born in Vancouver but I never walked those streets or talked to the people down there and it was a lot different than I expected,” said Jones. “The idea was to get the message from some of the people on the east side and bring it back to the kids to show them the dangers of drugs but also to tell them maybe the people down there aren’t bad people, they just made bad choices and it could be anyone down there.
“I definitely think we got through to them (students) we had a lot of great responses and a lot of great questions.”
He added the students decision to knit the scarves for the east side people was a strong indication of their understanding of the issues.
“It was great,” said Jones. “We didn’t expect that at all and it’s nice to see the kids want to give back and they want to keep doing that for years to come.”
Correctional centre warden Steve DiCastri, who accompanied the Vees to Vancouver, was also on hand Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“This is our first year and I found the kids so engaged and I think the difference is they’re hearing the message and we’ll be back next year hammering that message,” said DiCastri. “These boys (Vees players) saw a lot there on the east side and we know they’ve never seen those types of things before by the way they were talking. I think it made a difference to them and they really delivered that message to the kids and the Vees were a key part of this.”