Players with the Red Deer Rebels are visiting Central Alberta schools and telling kids about how making bad choices when it comes to drugs can ruin your life.
Every year six Rebels players, accompanied by Red Deer city RCMP and undercover drug officers in Vancouver, visit the East Hastings area. Drug use is rampant there and the players see first hand how drugs can destroy lives. It’s called Project Keep Straight.
Defenseman Aaron Borejko was one of the Rebels players who spoke at a recent Downtown Rotary luncheon. He described the Vancouver trip as an “Eye-opener. I didn’t expect to see anything like that. What startled me was the openness of the drug use and the openness of the drug addicts to talk about their lives. It’s scary.”
Josh Cowen, a Rebels right-winger, says visiting East Hastings made him realize “How powerful addictions are. It’s a disease. I feel I can better understand it, but it’s not easy.
“I hate needles, but I had to watch (a drug addict shoot up) even though it grossed me out so much. But now I see that the extreme high they get is why they do it. They’ll do anything to support their habit, the women sell themselves, it’s all about the drugs, they can’t control themselves. Some kids get scared (when we describe the drug use and lost lives) and some don’t think it’s real,” he says.
“It’s hard to tell them what it’s like but if I can change one person’s life by telling these stories, I’ve done my job.”
“When you see a guy shoot up heroin right in front of you, it’s disturbing to watch,” says defenseman Justin Weller. “It’s something I never thought I’d see. I’m happy to relay the message (about what I saw) to kids in Central Alberta schools if it will keep them off drugs.”
Bryon Froese, who plays centre, says, “What I took from it, not understanding why people are doing this, and not seeing anything like it before, is that these people are just like you and me and the realization that it could happen to anyone, people in your family, or anybody really. It can happen from just one bad choice in life.”
Assistant Rebels coach Chris Neiszner, a former Rebels player, made the East Hastings trip himself a few years ago and says the hockey players, as role models, can help make kids realize that leading a drug-free life is important.