Pulling together

One sign of living in a small community is how people pull together when faced with difficulty. When a home burns, when a person needs help to meet extra medical expenses, when a disaster of any kind hits, the community tends to pull together.
Neepawa hasn’t exactly had a disaster but more precisely some unfortunate circumstances recently. Long famous, and still well known, as Manitoba’s most beautiful town, the news out of Neepawa hasn’t all been good lately. Having gained national news for the hazing incident a few months back, Neepawa has also had some other media noted setbacks over the past few months.
In response to the hockey hazing incident, several people in Neepawa dug deep financially, and dug even deeper as volunteers, to work through the consequences of the incident. Reviewing the details of the hazing will serve no purpose here. The incident happened within the Neepawa Natives Junior A hockey team and will be reviewed yet again in agonizing detail when the MJHL final report comes out.
That said, people in the community realized that this is “Our Team, Our Community” and when fixing is needed, the community can rise to the occasion and try to fix things.
The Neepawa Natives team decided to have a “free game” last Friday night. A local businessman gathered together a bunch of support and workers and came up with the idea of having a week long anti-hazing event. The profits would go to an MJHL anti-hazing, anti-bullying fund. Money was raised, team members worked with groups in the community, draw tickets were sold and awareness raised. The message was simple. Hazing is bad, it will likely happen again, some day, somewhere, but as a community, Neepawa is going to do its best to see that inappropriate actions are reduced or eliminated in youth sport or anywhere else for that matter. The crown jewel of the week’s event was the “free game”. The team dug deep and did their part by winning 4-3. The community did their part by coming in the hundreds, an estimated crowd of 1,000 attended. The 50:50 draw was bigger than the gate receipts from an ordinary game. The Yellowhead Centre organization helped out. The Filtoba Filipino group volunteered. The lobby was full, the concession overworked, the stands filled up nicely. Oh yes, did I mention, the team won? And to celebrate the week and the win, fans gathered in the Yellowhead Hall for free hotdogs and coffee and viewed decades of hockey memorabilia.
Going forward, this community and others will continue to respond to bad situations. Hopefully, the hazing situation won’t make a return appearance. Nobody is looking forward to a return match of that particular kind of event. It would be nice to say hazing and bullying are dead.
It remains to be seen how much money will go to the MJHL anti-hazing fund. It is a fund that should grow as other teams and other communities mount an effort to build those coffers. Hazing is a rite of passage we could well do without. Sure, it has happened before and it will likely happen again. But perhaps there’s a better rite of passage that could be adopted. With the kind of leadership that was displayed these past few weeks in Neepawa, perhaps volunteering and working with kids and helping out in the community will become the new rite of passage. It’s one we can be proud of. Then Neepawa can truly be Manitoba’s most beautiful town with flowers, gardens, trees and peace of mind.
The trees are still here, the flowers and gardens will bloom again come spring and with the good work done last week, the peace of mind may grow and thrive too. It will need some tending, just like the flower beds, but with community effort, it can grow as well.

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kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247