New program aims to connect with local boys

When the Trail Smoke Eaters connect on the ice in a hockey game it usually results in a goal.

When the Trail Smoke Eaters connect on the ice in a hockey game it usually results in a goal.

Off the ice, that same connection results in a score of another sort. Through a new program called Boys Connect, several Smokies are taking that same attitude of cooperation and connecting with young boys in Trail and area schools.

Targeting elementary school age children, every two weeks the players come in to five elementary schools — Glenmerry, James L. Webster, MacLean, St. Michael’s and Fruitvale — and spend an hour reading with them.

It’s a simple program, said Boys Connect coordinator Naomi Bain, but one which will undoubtedly give a real assist to the young boys it connects with.

Young boys see healthy male role models who, whether they play hockey or not, are involved in their community, said Bain.

“Yes, they are hockey players, but they are also young men learning to give back to their community,” she added.

Run out of the Trail Fair Society, the one-year program is provincially funded through the Community Action Initiative and has similar pilot programs in Nelson, Kaslo, Grand Forks and Castlegar.

The idea is to make healthy boys into healthy men, said Bain. Each school chooses a different grade that the Smokies connect with, and the program will run into February.

There are other aspects to the Boys Connect program, said Bain, ones that are expected to stretch young people’s perceptions of what the word holds for them.

Through the program Bain is planning to assemble a resource guide that would provide everything from music to literature, recreation and sports, and how a young person can become involved in that in Trail and area.

As well, Bain is working with the Trail Public Library to bring in published authors to read to the children.

Later this month the first author could make an appearance at some of the schools, reading to young people who might not normally have that exposure.

“Those are the ones who would probably not be going to the library,” she said.

The Boys Connect program could also see some Smokies players volunteer at the Sanctuary pre-teen centre, as well as doing some self-esteem improvement work with students in the city’s schools.

Bain hinted there is a tentative plan to foster more involvement in local sports and cultural activities — possibly a trade show style of children’s stuff — and a hosted outdoor event in the spring.