Do sweat it: Youth sports against gang life

A new initiative, co-founded by a Top 25 Under 25 award winner, targets youth crime in Vancouver by encouraging participation in sports.

Kiran Toor, founder of kids Play

Kiran Toor, founder of kids Play | Photo courtesy of Kiran Toor

In the Spring 2015 Surrey RCMP Crime Prevention Newsletter, local authorities touted the power of community engagement programs: “the most effective way to manage crime in your neighbourhood is before it starts.”

That is where Kids Play comes in. Started in Jan. 2015, the non-profit organizes sports tournaments, conferences and other projects for youths throughout Vancouver, helped by a 100-strong volunteer force.

Volunteer state of mind

Kiran Toor, 20, is the founder and VP of Operations Management. She has volunteered in local and international organizations since high school, helping to raise more than $100,000 for various causes. Toor was recently awarded the prestigious Surrey Board of Trade’s Top 25 Under 25 for her dedication to the community.

“I have an ambition for volunteering and helping organizations that work towards the betterment of society,” Toor says.

A Surrey local, Toor will transfer to Simon Fraser University this fall to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree. In the future, she says she wants to continue to give back to the community by balancing her time between a fulfilling career and volunteer work.

Why sports?

Since 2010, B.C.’s Ministry of Justice has partnered with the B.C. Lions to prevent youth involvement in gangs by inspiring youth to be active, make positive choices and excel.

Toor believes sports not only keep children off the streets, but also instil valuable life lessons such as discipline, responsibility, self-confidence, sacrifice and accountability.

“Once a habit is attained, it is hard to let go of,” Toor says.

According to Toor, over 1,500 children have taken part in activities, including wrestling and weightlifting competitions, three-on-three soccer tournaments, and youth gang violence and anti-racism forums.

Kal Dosanjh, Kids Play’s co-founder and CEO, plays a big part in trying to prevent youth gang involvement. Dosanjh is a veteran of law enforcement, having filled several positions in key departments, and began the Police Athletic League Youth Soccer Tournament for Downtown Eastside inner-city youth. Dosanjh has his own fitness show, Desi Beasts, and takes an active role in the community through speaking engagements, board positions and public appearances.

The sports activities and talks are what make up Kids Play’s targeted approach to risk factors associated with youth crime. To reduce the chances of juveniles slipping into mischief, Toor says Kids Play tries to make the focus on positive peer interactions, opportunities to develop problem solving skills and adult support.

Onwards and outwards

For Toor, and Kids Play, this is only the beginning. Upcoming events include tournaments for three-on-three indoor basketball, field hockey and cricket, a large scale drugs and gang conference and a track and field meet.

From a starting team of just four members, Kids Play has expanded quickly, and plans are in place to grow the number of children, programs, sponsors and much-needed volunteers.

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