The Greg Moore Youth Centre has changed the lives of uncounted people in Maple Ridge.
This month saw the 20th anniversary of the centre, and was a time for people like Kyle Dion to look back on how his time at the youth centre put him on a path to success. He has become the head of a company that builds skate parks around the world.
Dion was a skater when they were mostly viewed not as potential Olympians, but as a public nuisance who needed to pull up their jeans. Before there was a Greg Moore Youth Centre, the Cam Neely Arena was at the same site – the rink name later moved to Planet Ice. During the summer, the arena became the Neutral Zone, and kids like Dion were allowed to skate in the old barn.
He soon got to work building ramps for skaters. He was enterprising. After one election cycle, he re-purposed the wood from local candidates signs for skateboard ramps.
Associated with the youth program, he was working at the Neutral Zone selling skateboards and parts, and when it became the Greg Moore Youth Centre, he built the ramps that are still there. All of this ramp building launched his business. His company New Line Skateparks is one of the top three in the world for designing and building these concrete facilities, he said. They are presently doing multi-million dollar parks in Victoria and Alabama, and he has put together hundreds of projects all over the world.
He is also the vice-president of the non-profit Canada Skateboard, which works to send Canadian competitors to the Olympics.
Now he’s 46, and both of his sons have been involved in youth mentorship at the Greg Moore Youth Centre. He sees it as a positive place.
“I couldn’t imagine what my life would have been,” he said. “It helped a young entrepreneur get his start.”
Dion credits the people and the program, and said the building gives them a place to do great work.
“Maple Ridge has always been unique, in that the youth program was so strong,” he said. “Then when they had a great facility, it just enhanced it.”
Tony Controneo, the city parks and rec department’s Manager of Community Engagement, said the city had a great program, but calls the youth centre “A complete game-changer,” in the almost unlimited opportunities to develop programs.
The philosophy has always been about allowing youth to “own” the facility.
“We don’t paint a wall without consulting them,” he said.
As a result, kids come to skateboard, climb the rock wall, or play games like pool, foosball, street hockey or even a board game. Then some become leaders and mentors, employees, and ultimately community leaders as teachers, RCMP officers and city employees. Controneo says after two decades, he sees the GMYC kids contributing to their city in many ways.
Brian Patel started as a children’s day camp leader with the program in 1986, then came back after university as a youth worker in 1994, and now he is the program coordinator.
He describes the people who work at the GMYC as “experts in relationship building,” and that serves them well through life.
They take part in programs, volunteer their time, become junior staff members, and then join the organization.
Patel said young people stay involved, because their participation is valued.
“It’s driven by youth, for youth,” he said. “The kids drive the initiatives.”
“The whole point is youth taking ownership of their space.”
Henry Chan started there was a skateboarder, and now is a youth worker.
“It’s changed my life,” he said. “This place has put a good head on my shoulders. It’s give me a good perspective. There are lots of good role models.”
Ric Moore has been a constant supporter of the facility, which was built in the name of his son, Greg Moore, who grew up in Maple Ridge, and was a champion auto racer until his tragic death in a racing accident in 1999.
“Right as we put a shovel in the ground, Greg Moore Sadly passed,” said Controneo. “He was a great role model.”
When his name was suggested for the centre – by a teen – it seemed perfect.
The Greg Moore Foundation was established to honour his legacy, and for the past 20 years it has contributed money toward the youth centre. Ric was part of the opening ceremonies, and his family donated $30,000 to buy the new climbing wall.
Since then, the foundation has contributed $11,700 each year, to pay for youth to work at the centre every summer. He recently made the commitment to continue the contribution for another 10 years, bringing the total support to some $380,000 in total.
Controneo said most cities still don’t have a facility to rival the Greg Moore Youth Centre.
“It was far ahead of its time, and its still relevant,” he said. “It makes Maple Ridge unique in the delivery of youth services.”
Due to COVID-19 the centre will be celebrating its 20 years with a video journey. The video and other information about the GMYC can be found at mapleridge.ca
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