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Event a thank-you to community following WMC vandalism incident

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First came the vandalism at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. Then came residents’ response, working around the disruption and getting the place back in shape. Now, there’s a family event lined up to say thank-you to the community.

On April 13, Crime Stoppers Waterloo Region, with the help of the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association, will be offering up a bevy of activities.

The importance to communities of places like hockey arenas was apparent in the response to the New Year’s Day vandalism that caused $100,000 in damage to the WMC, Crime Stoppers program coordinator Cst. Darryl Paquette said this week.

“Being a hockey player as my previous occupation, I lived in the hockey arena. For me, when I heard of the [vandalism] it kind of hit home because that’s where I did a lot of growing up and met unbelievable people. The arena is not just a place to play hockey: it provided me with a lot of life skills. I know the community had such an important role in getting the [WMC] established, it’s got to hurt when somebody maliciously damages things,” he said.

Plans for the event started as a tribute to the community standing up against crime. Coincidentally, the event falls close to the 40th anniversary of an Elmira vandalism spree that spawned the restorative justice movement. The Elmira case arose from an incident in which two intoxicated teens tore through Elmira in May 1974, vandalizing 22 properties. In a first for a court system anywhere, the perpetrators were given the option of facing their victims and making amends.

“It’s kind of neat how it’s all fallen into place, it works really well. It kind of rehashes the whole community aspect of the event.”

Crime Stoppers is partnering with Woolwich Minor Hockey for the event, employing former hockey players, now local police officers, to hold a skills session for the kids. Part of the plan is to develop positive relationships between youth and police officers.

“It was just the community response, how the community rallied around it, how they cleaned up quickly and just the overall response in apprehension of the suspects,” Paquette said. “Just shows the strength of the community and we thought that’s a great time for Crime Stoppers to come in and do a program or an event for the community to kind of congratulate them on showing their commitment.”

On the docket for the day are hockey skills sessions for minor hockey players, free public skate and swim opportunities, prize giveaways, a public school essay contest, face painting, seniors centre activities including presentations on elder abuse, barbecue, raffles and draws. As a precursor to an anti-bullying program in collaboration with Crime Stoppers, the Kitchener Karate Academy will be putting on self-defense demonstrations.

A complete schedule of events and times will be available closer to the date of the event.

“Our main focus is bringing the community together, celebrate a great building that they have that has everything. It’s not just a place to play hockey, it gives everyone a place to go. These are the areas we really need to make sure that we don’t have our young kids out doing vandalism – give them something productive,” Paquette said.

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