Tall, lanky, and a tad shy, Trent doesn’t immediately strike you as a typical hockey player, but you’ll find him playing hockey nearly every Wednesday anyway. For over 4 years, Trent has been a mentee in the Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters HEROS program. HEROS – Hockey Education Reaching Out – aims to empower children on ice. And for Trent that’s exactly what it’s done.
Trent joined the program when he was in Grade 3. According to staff, he had a rocky start as he was often in trouble for his behavior and actions. But the Trent we see today, is a remarkably different young man who has taken complete responsibility for his own life and, as a result, has changed it.
Trent didn’t have the easiest of childhoods; he lives with Grandma because both Mom and Dad passed away, and he’s had several negative influences impact his life. But through HEROS he’s experiencing the impact of positive influences.
“The first few times I came here, I wasn’t very good at skating,” Trent says. “But I kept coming because my friends were here and it was something different to do after school.”
Eventually Trent made more friends through the program. He’s now close friends with a young man a few years older who’s in the Calgary program. “They hooked us up because we look the same; we both had ‘fros’ then,” Trent laughs. “But we get along because we have lots of things in common and I think if we’d met another way we’d still be friends.”
“HEROES isn’t really about hockey,” says Mark Milner, HEROS coach. “It’s about having a safe and fun place for kids to go, where people happen to play hockey. And it’s about giving them the opportunity to experience a sport they normally wouldn’t have access to.”
Hockey typically costs over $200 plus the necessary equipment.
In 2007, the program started in the Beverly area, with the kids coming from three schools. According to Mark, today they see kids come from all areas of the city, and will often have volunteers pick up the kids who live farther away.
“It’s based on four principles,” Trent tells us. “Listening, respect, having fun, and discipline.” According to Trent, those principles are the most important thing he’s learned throughout his time in the program.
“HEROES teaches kids to skate and play hockey,” Trent explains. “But they also help with your personal problems. And the mentors become some of your best friends.”
One of those friends for Trent was Mallory McMurtrie, Community Programs Facilitator, who used to run the HEROES program before her portfolio changed. Mallory, along with the other staff and volunteers, were consistently there for Trent and always made an effort to be kind to him, regardless of what mischief he managed to get into.
“One time, Trent asked us why everyone was always so nice to him when he kept making bad decisions,” Mallory says. “We told him that everyone makes bad decisions, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
The staff and volunteers always made sure that Trent knew they cared about him and wanted what was best for him. “We wanted to build his capacity so he could make his own changes in life and dream big,” Mallory explains.
One of the ways they built that capacity was connecting him and his Grandma with resources outside of BGCBigs to help them access affordable housing, winter clothes, and transportation.
Today, that capacity is evident in Trent. He’s incredibly smart and thoughtful, and his piercing brown eyes hint at a young soul that’s seen more than its fair share of challenges. Regardless, he smiles when he talks about his favourite class – Language Arts – and explains that he wants to go to university but he also wants to pursue a career in R&B with the help of iHuman.
“I was a bad kid and had a bad reputation in Grade 7 [last year],” Trent tells us. “But in Grade 8, I changed.”
When we asked what prompted that change, Trent was silent for a few minutes, really thinking about the question. He was quiet with sincerity when he responded: “making people proud.”
Because Trent has made so many people so proud over the past year, we were so pleased to choose Trent as the recipient for our Group Mentee of the Year Award in September.
“I was really excited,” he explains with a huge smile. “And surprised. I’d never got an award before. I thought it was out of my league.”
Mallory explains that he was nominated for the award because of the amazing changes he’s made in his life over the past year. “He’s been helping out with the younger kids on the ice and he’s learning how to ask for help. One night, he refused to go with his friends to participate in a crime. They abandoned him so he called a staff for help getting home. It’s so unusual to see a 13 year old who is able to stand up against that kind of peer pressure.”
It means a lot to Trent knowing that he has several caring adults in his life who are just a phone call away.
Because Trent and his Grandma were having a hard time finding a place to live and were in-between stable homes, Trent ended up missing over a month of school and was unable to attend the BGCBigs Award Ceremony. Luckily Mallory and several other caring staff were able to track him down and deliver the award in person along with the $200 cheque that accompanied it.
“Getting the award helped my attitude,” Trent admits. “It kind of took my mind off what was going on. My Grandma was so excited too. We used some of the money to order a pizza to celebrate!”
It’s an amazing thing for a child to have people all around them believe in them. We have no doubt that Trent is going to continue changing his life for the better and become a role model to many.