Huddle up to help gridiron kids

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Last year the community’s youth were dealt a heartbreaking blow from the closure of the Big Brothers Big Sisters local office.For more than 30 years the organization made a huge difference to the lives of countless young people in the town and region with healing mentoring programs. Thankfully, the Red Deer office stepped up four months later to rescue the program for Innisfail’s youth.

But now we have another critically important youth-oriented program on the ropes and facing oblivion. By the end of the month it could be game over for the Innisfail Minor Football Association (IMFA). The problem? There is a lack of volunteers to support the program, which caters to boys and girls from the ages of eight to 14.

A few years ago former mayor Brian Spiller, always a tireless volunteer for the town, told the scribbler there was a looming crisis with volunteerism in the community. He noted the town’s core volunteer leaders were getting older, and that a new generation had to start stepping up. Innisfail had always prided itself on having the most enviable stock of volunteers in the province, but times were indeed changing.

The IMFA has served the community and hundreds of kids for the past 11 years. It came into existence in 2007 following the unfortunate end to the football program at Innisfail High School two years earlier.

For every one of those years the program, broken up into atom, peewee and bantam levels, has turned lives around for many participating kids who had endured sad personal challenges, such as the tragic loss of a parent or crippling emotional issues. But football was there to make a positive difference. It was a game that went far beyond spectacular catches and touchdowns. And when the season was over the kids had their banquet. Yes, congratulations and high-fives for a great season were there, but the most important success was the miracle inside many of the little boys and girls.

Lives had been changed. Many had new friends. They had purpose and direction. They learned to laugh and feel joy.

The IMFA is holding an emergency meeting on March 28 at the Innisfail Aquatic Centre when the future of the association will be decided. The town could very well lose another youth program on that date. But it doesn’t have to happen. The community could step up one more time by offering selfless help, the kind of miracle that makes kids smile and changes lives for the better.

Coincidently, March 28 is just over two weeks before National Volunteer Week, a time for all communities to celebrate the power of volunteerism.

Yes, miracles do happen.

We at the Innisfail Province hope to see you on March 28.

Johnnie Bachusky is the editor of the Innisfail Province.

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About Author

Johnnie Bachusky

Johnnie Bachusky joined the Innisfail Province as editor in 2013. He covers Innisfail and Red Deer County news, police, crime and municipal politics. He is also a photographer and columnist.