For 61 years, the Don Mills Civitan Club has been instrumental in providing Toronto youth with the opportunity to participate in activities, while simultaneously instilling important values like teamwork, responsibility, fair play and leadership. An integral part of the club is the Don Mills Civitan Hockey League (DMCHL), which gives youth the chance to play hockey, despite various restraints like financial and developmental challenges.
“We take great pride in the fact that we are one of the few house leagues within the City of Toronto that will never refuse an individual the opportunity to participate,” said David Croutch, president of the Don Mills Civitan Hockey League. “It’s our mandate and simply put, it’s the right thing to do.”
One of the DMCHL’s many rewarding programs is its Pro Action Hockey League (PAHL). Four years ago, in collaboration with the DMCHL, City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, and ProAction Cops & Kids, the PAHL was created to bring organized ice hockey to some of Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, such as Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park. Coached entirely by officers from Toronto Police 54 Division, the PAHL enables 128 at-risk youth, ages eight to 11, to play hockey and interact with their peers from October to April at the Angela James Arena in North York.
This past December, the DMCHL was awarded a $25,000 grant from RBC Play Hockey, one of 20 handed out in 2012. To celebrate its grant and honour its outstanding community efforts, the Don Mills Civitan Club was presented with its grant and banner at the RBC Play Hockey Charity Challenge, an event in partnership with the NHLPA that raised $100,000 for grassroots hockey initiatives across Canada.
RBC Play Hockey is one of the largest corporately-funded hockey programs that supports grassroots hockey in communities across North America. To date, RBC has provided more than $1.5 million in grants to over 120 hockey programs – ranging from learn-to-skate, ball hockey and equipment sharing programs to improving access to ice, hockey clinic initiatives and lowering registration costs.
With some of the grant funding, the DMCHL will ensure the PAHL program continues, purchase new equipment and keep costs down so it’s not a road block for kids to participate. PAHL does not simply provide Don Mills youth with the means and necessities to play hockey, but it promotes dialogue between the children, parents and officers, ultimately creating to a safer and closer community.
“This program transcends participation in sport. It promotes interaction and dialogue between participants, parents and police,” added Croutch. “In fact, information has been volunteered to the police coaches that led to a safer community. No longer do police cars drive within the community and have people view them as simply ‘cop’, but rather they wave in hopes that it’s one of their coaches.”
Pat Francois, an officer with Toronto Police 54 Division and a PAHL coach, sees first-hand the impact the hockey league has made on the community. He noted that when they used to drive through the neighbourhood, many were reluctant to talk to them. “Now the kids and community come to us; they no longer shut us out. The impact is immeasurable.”
In addition to the PAHL, funding was given to the DMCHL’s Donaldson’s Diamonds, a hockey league made up of volunteers and parents that provides developmentally-delayed individuals, from their early teens to 40s, a fun environment for learning and acceptance. They will use the grant to cover registration fees and provide members with quality coaching and equipment.