By Kim Ezzard, Social Program Officer, Stony Mountain Institution
In the late 1990s, the Kenora Prison Outreach began an outreach ministry at the Kenora Provincial Jail in Ontario. Each month, the outreach group would travel to Stony Mountain Institution (SMI) in Manitoba to follow up with inmates who transferred from Kenora to SMI to serve their sentence. It was during one of these visits that the idea for a hockey game was born.
For 12 years, SMI has hosted the Kenora Prison Outreach hockey team for a day of fellowship and hockey with offenders from the institution’s minimum-security unit. This year, the trip was memorable in more ways than one. Not only did the group play outdoors on a - 29°C day, but they also played on a specially decorated rink.
Last year, in a tribute to the Winnipeg Jets, offenders on the SMI rink’s recreation crew set down lines like those at the Jets’ home rink, Bell MTS Place. This year, two offenders wanted to pay special tribute to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for finally winning the Stanley Cup, and decorated the ice with hand-cut stars. The recreation crew also did a great job maintaining the ice’s excellent condition throughout a very trying winter.
After the morning games were completed, the offenders and volunteers gathered in the gymnasium for a lunch, which was funded by a donation from the minimum-security Lifer’s Group.
After the meal, as in previous years, the group took part in fellowship, testimonials, gospel singing, and prayers. This year, Kenora Prison Outreach brought a special guest with them to speak to the offenders: Goyce Kakegamic, the former deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and currently an advisor on the Northern Chiefs Council of Northern Ontario. Goyce shared stories about the tragic suicides plaguing his community and spoke about the artwork he created to help return some happiness and positive spirit to the community. The artwork, he explained, captures how a butterfly has the ability to metamorphose from a caterpillar, reminding the offenders that everyone can change and start anew, much like the caterpillar to the butterfly.
Each offender was presented with a copy of Goyce’s painting, who asked them to look at the picture when they need to make changes and remind themselves that the ability to change is within.
Faith minister Howard Jolly and his son Joel also joined the Kenora group, performing country/gospel songs and speaking about the personal impact of alcoholism and family violence.
Another highlight of the experience was two volunteers from Kenora Prison Outreach bringing their sons to enjoy the day. With the next generation participating, we hope to continue the longstanding tradition of this event long after the original team hangs up their skates in retirement!