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Fourteen year-old Melyk George grew up playing hockey in Toronto’s Regent Park and knows first-hand that people outside of the community have a less than sterling impression of the area.

“People who don’t live here think that it’s a really bad neighborhood because a lot of things have happened in the past,” George said, “but I think that it’s a really loving community.”

It was in that spirit of love and community that George, along with a number of community and business representatives gathered today at the Regent Park Athletics Ground, braving the Canadian winter cold to celebrate the upcoming January 26th grand opening of the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Foundation’s LaunchPad facility, located at 261 Jarvis Street in Toronto.

Scotiabank and Darcy Tucker present a cheque to the MLSE Foundation

The MLSE LaunchPad, funded in part by a generous $300,000 contribution from Scotiabank, is a 42,000 square foot athletics facility that aims to fully embody its name by combining sport, education and research to promote social change both in Toronto and beyond. It will feature sport courts, classrooms and even a teaching kitchen.

Tanya Mruck, Executive Director of MLSE LaunchPad, says that enormous anecdotal evidence exists that sports programs have a positive impact on youth and development and that the importance of the facility lies in its mission to quantify that impact.

“This facility is actually going to test out those theories; develop programs and curriculum and then measure and evaluate them to continuously improve and provide evidence for the Sports For Development community that their programs work.”

Tanya Mruck speaking to the crowd

With this kind of statistical evidence, Mruck hopes that it will become more apparent that other communities can impact positive change through similar programming and lead to more funding and investment in youth-based sports programming.

“It’s a spring forward, a movement, getting kids to recognize and reach their potential is what we’re all about,” Mruck said.

Mruck is far from being alone in that hope.

Toronto Maple Leaf’s alumni and fan favorite, right-winger Darcy Tucker was on hand and on skates today in support of the LaunchPad initiative, lacing up to hit the ice for a skate with some local players. He shared some anecdotal evidence of his own about the benefit of sports programs and mentorship in his formative years.

Leaf Alum, Darcy Tucker

A local girls team tries out the new ice surface

“I remember being a young kid and having people in my community that were able to give guidance, coaching and skills that might help later on,” Tucker said. “If I didn’t have those people in my life I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

The MLSE Foundation, which boasts more than $24 million in investments into the Toronto community since it’s launch in 2009, hopes to spread this positive impact even further and grow more of the kind of community pride that Melyk George enjoys in Regent Park.

“Everyone loves each other, everyone knows each other and everyone stands behind each other,” George said.

That’s the kind of community that the MLSE LaunchPad is in the business of fostering both in the GTA and beyond. 

Following the grand opening later this month, the facility will be hosting an open house on the 11th of February to let anyone interested tour the facilities and learn more about their programming and goals. Check out the MLSE Foundation website for more information closer to the date.


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