Officers recognized
Two members go to great lengths for community youth

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 05/00) - Two Yellowknife RCMP members have been recognized for their efforts of starting a free karate organization for city youth.

Cpl. Dan Nolan and Staff Sgt. Luther Cutts, both blackbelts, received letters of appreciation that "acknowledge outstanding work and being involved in community activities," on April 21 from their commanding officer, Bill Sweeney.

Sweeney said the karate organization was an idea the two officers had after transferring from Nunavut to the Northwest Territories two years ago. The first year the program was offered, in September 1998, about 50 people were involved, mostly kids. The program proved so popular that now there are over 150 members.

"The basic idea of it was to continue our training and in order to do that we wanted to offer it to kids," said Cpl. Nolan. "The money aspect of it wasn't something we wanted to get involved in. We wanted to offer it for free."

Ecole St. Joseph's vice-principal Merril Dean offered to let the organization use the school's gym and many of its students started attending the twice-weekly classes.

"We had kids who came in the first day and were too shy to talk and now they're some of the most talkative kids," Nolan said.

"We have kids doing well in school as well as kids who don't function well in school and the teachers say they can see some real differences."

Doreen Murray has two boys in the program and said they wouldn't be participating if the classes weren't offered free of charge.

"The oldest one is hyper so it's like a guide. When he's here he does well and he's calmer," she said.

"At home when they need to take off their gis (karate uniform), they respect it.

"They don't want to miss the classes and the only time they'll miss it is if they're sick."

Although the classes are open to everyone, Nolan said children make up the majority of participants. As well as promoting physical activity, respect and discipline, the officers also use the program as a platform to discourage drug use.

"They work with many kids who have problems," said Alan Regel, a Yellowknife Crown prosecutor. Regel, a brownbelt who helps in the program along with Staff Sgt. Tom Raines, sits on the Zenshin Dojo Society, formed specifically for this program. He said one child in particular accrued positive benefits. The child from Iqaluit was living with a foster family in Yellowknife.

"The reports we got back were to the affect that it gave him something to look forward to," Regel said.

The letter received by the two RCMP members came as a surprise and a welcome acknowledgement for the work done.

"It was very significant and a nice tap on the back," Nolan said. "I never thought we'd get anything like this.

"But seeing the kids' eyes light up when you give them a yellow belt -- that's our paycheque."