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RCMP, Grade 7s bond over ball hockey

Program connects police with youth through monthly games

As the two teams warmed up to the tune of a "good ole hockey game," the smile painted on the faces of the Richmond Mounties masked a worried look in their eyes.

As they watched the Grade 7 Grauer elementary students slapshot the ball into the top shelf at the other end of the school's gym, the officers knew they had their work cut out for them.

Their suspicions were well founded. It may have been billed as an exhibition to launch Richmond RCMP's "School Sports Program" on Monday, but neither side left anything in the locker and gave it their best shot, so to speak.

And despite going down to an early goal, the Grauer boys battled back and eventually humbled the Mounties 3-1 at ball hockey, to cheers of their fellow students.

But it was all for a good cause, and there were happy faces and some adults blowing hard at the final whistle.

The program aims to play a similar game once a month around the city to help forge connections between youth and RCMP officers.

"I have kids of school age in Richmond and they're always asking for opportunities to meet officers," said program founder Cpl. Kevin Krygier between shifts on the floor.

"I used to participate in something like this in Surrey, but there was nothing here in Richmond and I wanted to help get us more engaged with the youth.

"The aim is to have fun and engage with the kids at the same time.

"It's about making them more comfortable being around us. We want to show them that we're just people."

Krygier said he hopes to start the program in earnest in the fall and organize at least one game a month in a different elementary school each time.

"It will depend on how many schools are interested and how many members we can get to come out," added Krygier, who's confident he'll get more than enough Mountie volunteers.

Two of the Grauer elementary Grade 7 student players, Arya Ardehali and Marvic Llobrera, were very excited about playing against the officers.

"We're going to smoke them," Marvic said before the game, while Arya admitted his only involvement with a police officer beforehand was when one asked him and his friends if they'd seen a suspect they were looking for.

"He gave us one of those leisure cards, he was nice," he said.

"I think (the police) are people we can trust; they make things better."

Grauer principal Anna Ho said she was happy to help the RCMP be portrayed in a different light to the students.

Officers from both uniform and plainclothes units will be participating in order to achieve the goal of visiting at least one school per month during the school year.

Richmond's new program is just one of many initiatives within the detachment that falls under the RCMP's National Youth Strategy.

acampbell@richmond-news.com