Tearful teens ask Montague council for help establishing youth centre

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 29, 2014

Ann Marie King, centre, wearing Captain shirt, sitting with her friends Lydia Acorn, left, and Kyla Mackenzie, right, led the packed presentation at Montague Town Hall Monday night requesting support for a youth centre in the Kings County town.

© Guardian photo by Steve Sharratt

MONTAGUE – Tearful teens, supported by their families, made pleas to Montague Town Council here Monday night to help kick start a campaign to open a youth centre in the wake of a fire last month in Charlottetown that claimed the lives of three Montague area teenagers.

“I lost my oldest grandson….I don’t want to lose anymore,’’ said Louell Llewellyn, the grandmother of Kenneth Irving, one of three young men who perished in the tragic fire March 29 in Charlottetown. “I will volunteer and help anyway possible.”

Dozens and dozens of people jammed the town hall and lined up along the walls in support of some action to help find a place for teens to “hang and chill”.

Council was told not every teen plays soccer or hockey in the region and some type of centre must be established for young people wanting to skateboard or hang out with friends.

Some parents said if every Islander donated a toonie, enough could be raised to build a structure.

Mary Vandenbroek Grant and Lori Lund, who run the Eastern Eagles soccer club, said such a project required money, volunteers and plenty of phases.

“We’ve got a real crisis in our community…. and right across the Island,’’ said Grant, a well-known Cardigan businesswoman. “Step one would be simply to find a place available right now for kids to gather and then work on a future plan.”

The action group for youth earned the support of the town council here and Coun. Peggy MacLeod suggested some type of arrangement could be made to establish a temporary operation at the Wellness Centre.

The $7 million Cavendish Farms sponsored rink is basically closed since the hockey season ended and many parents see an opportunity to use the concrete floor for skateboarding and a gathering place.

“We have fundraising ideas spilling over and we will work to run it and keep it safe for kids,’’ said Ann Marie King, the teenager who led the presentation to council.

The meeting was also attended by Brandon Quinn, the lone survivor of the Charlottetown fire, and Sandra Jenkins of Cardigan, the mother of Brandon (Bmack) MacKinnon who died in that same fire.

“I joined this effort so we could put something together for all kids,’’ she said choking with tears. “All we’re asking is for kids to have place to go and hang out.”

Teenager Colton Compton and countless other young people said they are continually kicked out of Tim Horton’s or the waterfront area and have no place to skateboard or enjoy friends.

On March 29, four Montague area teenagers were dropped off in Charlottetown. Two spent the day in the downtown while two spent some time in and around the Charlottetown Mall.

Before midnight, the four met at 207 Mount Edward Road, the former Sherwood Greens, property. At some point, they started a fire to keep warm.

Firefighters were called to the property at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. The building was engulged in flames.

Joey Reeves, Brandon MacKinnon and Kenneth Irving died in the fire. Brandon Quinn, the lone survivor, was hospitalized in Halifax where he was treated for severe burns. He was released from hospital last week.

NDP leader Mike Redmond, who was at the meeting in Montague Monday night, said he would advocate on behalf of the youth group to seek some funding from the government.

Montague once had a youth club years ago called Generation X in a building donated by businessman Danny Murphy. However, the centre dissolved after a few years due to finances and volunteer issues.

“This youth centre would be like a second home for many of these kids,’’ said parent Juanita Garnhum.

The teen group has already solicited help from local businesses and Montague Mayor Richard Collins said the town will support every effort to move the plan ahead.