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Piper pitches plan to keep kids out of trouble
By ROSS ROMANIUK - Winnipeg Sun


Roddy Piper (right) talks to Pinkham School students Brendan Willan (left) and Mohamed Mansaray prior to SPIN announcement. Photo by Brian Donogh, Winnipeg Sun

WINNIPEG - Rowdy Roddy Piper put his celebrity muscle yesterday behind a new city program that encourages kids to take a kick at summer sports, rather than crime.

The wrestling legend -- a former Winnipeg resident -- turned out to a North End recreation centre with Mayor Sam Katz to trumpet a soccer program which will allow youths age six to 14 to play in leagues for free this summer.

Titled SPIN, or Sports Programs in Inner-City Neighbourhoods, the effort is among the first of Winnipeg's LiveSAFE initiatives organized as a crime-fighting measure by city police and the municipal community services department.

Piper, who will turn 54 this week, said the program is coming from the same kind of police effort that had steered him away from a "dead end road" while he lived in St. Boniface as a teen.

"The allure of gangs is so easy, as opposed to taking the right road," said Piper, a Portland, Ore.,-area resident who is shooting the movie Clear Lake in Gimli and other Manitoba locations. "They're reaching out. And no kid will be denied."

Beginning this year with soccer under a plan to add further sports later, SPIN is using teamwork from Sport Manitoba and the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres to form age-based leagues for mainly core-area kids -- youngsters whose families may not otherwise have the money to let them take part.

"We must provide positive alternatives to the gang and criminal lifestyle that some individuals would rather enlist and recruit our children into," Katz said, stressing the city will organize the facilities, leagues and teams while finding coaches and even transportation in buses and vans for those who need it.

"No child will be turned away. They certainly aren't turned away by the gangs, so why would we be any different?"

Police Chief Keith McCaskill said "we have to do more, and more, and more" to give children such alternatives.

Piper, a former wrestling star turned actor -- his movies include the 1988 alien-invasion film They Live -- called Katz "a caring man" who is steering kids properly with the sports initiative.

"You've got to go get them, and show them a whole other way. Because there's a future out there. They could be our next prime minister. They're worth our time," Piper said, his voice choking with emotion.

"Everybody needs a little attention sometimes. And they need a hug, and they need an 'Atta boy,' or an, 'Atta girl.' And the kids out there, they're not getting that. And this program, SPIN, is supplying that."

The city is encouraging corporate and community donations at SPIN@winnipeg.ca. Information is available at 204-986-5363 and 204-986-4355.

RELATED LINKS

  • Roddy Piper bio and story archive