Looking to the city's northwest Thursday morning, you might have seen a rainbow landing right in the heart of the Alliance Church. There were neither leprechauns nor black cauldrons but there was one big piece of gold to signify the bounty brought in by one local social agency.
Meaghan Mikkelson, local sports hero and recent gold medallist for Canada's women's hockey team at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, was the guest speaker for the sixth annual Mayor's Breakfast in support of the St. Albert Youth Community Centre (YCC). She was an apt choice considering how well she knows the value of a group effort. During her speech to the sold-out crowd, she talked about how no one gets to the Olympics without a team of people helping them along every step of the way.
"Our theme with the national team this year was 'Struggle and Emerge,'" she began, clearly no stranger to struggle. Referring to her training routine on the official trial roster before the Games even started, she said, "Looking back, it was, besides the Olympics, the most challenging month of my life. It was 10 hours of training a day, six days a week. We were really pushed to our limits, both physically and mentally, throughout that month."
She said the successful run for the gold medal wouldn't have been possible without the people who created the supportive culture that fostered her and her team's athletic development.
Sports excellence aside, that's similar to what the YCC does. Located in Grandin mall, the centre offers a safe haven with barrier-free access to programs and services ranging from leisure and lifestyle to education and employment and everything in between. It's a famous proponent of the 40 Developmental Assets initiative, building the blocks of young people's personalities and characters to grow them into healthier, more caring and responsible adults.
Mayor Nolan Crouse called SAYCC a "very important element in our community" and "fundamentally important to the social fabric."
"The city provides funding to make sure that the youth centre has a home," he stated, talking about the rent coverage provided by the municipal government. "We make sure that there is a location that is paid for. We believe that it's the least that the taxpayers can do for this community."
The centre logs approximately 10,000 visits annually and since it is registered as a non-profit organization, it relies heavily on fundraising to do what it does for youth between Grades 7 and age 17. A final figure for this event has not yet been tabulated.
After Mikkelson's address to the crowd of hundreds, Crouse came back to the stage to make a special announcement regarding the city's recognition of its sports heroes.
"We've instituted arts awards and philanthropy awards … it's really about a nomination of people who bring leadership to the community," he began before revealing the city, with the help of private partners, is going to establish the St. Albert Skating Sports Wall of Fame that will likely be located in Servus Place in the next year or two. It will acknowledge our city's ice athletes who have provided leadership and become role models through their sports accomplishments. He then named Mikkelson as the first inductee.