Superintendent Heinz Kuck pushed himself to the limits to help pave the way for music programming for youth.
On June 18, the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club – which celebrates its 60th anniversary next year – were the beneficiaries of Kuck’s tenacity, spirt of goodwill and generosity.
In hot and humid conditions, the 11 Division unit commander pushed and pulled a weighted steel sled from his station at 2054 Davenport Rd. to the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club at 180 Westmoreland Ave.
A total of $10,000 was raised from the Push for Hope fundraiser, exceeding the $7,500 target.
Starting off with 100 pounds, Kuck added weight plates to the sled after three stops that allowed young club members to speak about the hardships youth face in the city.
He completed the three-kilometre course, pushing and pulling 300 pounds most of the way, in about two hours.
“By adding pounds, I wanted to show the weight that society puts on young people as they grow and experience life,” said Kuck. “While what I was doing was physically demanding, I wanted to make it clear that it didn’t compare with the issues of peer pressure, substance abuse and poverty that our youth are subjected to daily.”
Kuck made three other stops along the way for three club staff members to speak about the positive programs that are affecting youths' lives.
Pushing his body to the limit for charitable causes is something that Superintendent Kuck relishes.
In the last four years, he has twice completed a 55-kilometre outrigger canoe journey across Lake Ontario, paddled 22 kilometres around the Toronto Islands and successfully embarked on a nine-night, 10-day dogsled expedition through the Northern Ontario wilderness arriving at James Bay.
Grade nine student Kevin Cesar has been a Dovercourt Boys and Girls club member for 11 years.
“I came to the club when I was four years old and I started playing soccer and hockey, which give me a reason to stay out of trouble,” he said. “Had it not been for the club, who knows where I would be now? I have come full circle in that I am now helping other kids instead of being helped and that’s allowing them to reach their full potential.”
Gissela Avila, 14, is also a longtime member.
“If you are dealing with issues at school or at home, the club is always there to provide you with the support you need,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are kids who don’t get that opportunity.”
Kuck spent several months preparing for the rigorous event.
“I worked with the sled in our parking lot and on the side streets and did a lot of cross-training between weightlifting, cardio and endurance,” he pointed out. “I also knew that, if it was hot and humid, the asphalt on the road would become soft and that would create resistance. It’s a good thing I worked with that in mind because the temperature was hot and that made for a tougher sledding.”
The money that Kuck raised will go to the club’s Music Makers program.
“I am happy that the police officer is doing this event,” said Grade three student Aiden Charles, who plays the steelpan and is in the music program. “My favourite activity is drumming and I am now learning all kinds of rhythms and even making up my own.”
Over the last few years, the club has leased music equipment.
“That’s a huge cost,” said Matteo Severino, the club’s program director. “We offer drumming, keyboard, steelpan and guitar lessons and now we are in a position to purchase some equipment. That’s a great boost for us and we just cannot thank Heinz enough for what he has done.”
Detective Constable Robert Tajti donated an electric guitar and amplifier to the club, on behalf of the Music Not Mischief program for high school students that he started a decade ago.
A community member, who wanted to be anonymous, donated the equipment to Tajti.
“This individual wanted the equipment to do a maximum amount of good and I thought it would be perfect for the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club,” said the 11 Division crime analyst. “Music-based outreach does what other outreach activities cannot. Music is all inclusive. It’s for everyone and rightly so. It’s through community partners and mentors like those at the Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club that make music truly accessible to everyone.
“When we teach a child to play a musical instrument, we teach them to invest in themselves, to practice discipline and clarity of mind. When we teach a child to play a song, we teach them to express themselves and affirm to them that they are heard. When we give a child the opportunity to perform in front of others, we show them that their message matters and that others will listen. In doing so, we teach them the basics of leadership.”
Davenport Boys and Girls Club executive director Dr. Sheldon Taylor thanked Kuck for his outstanding contribution to the club.
“We have a strategic alliance between the club and 11 Division,” said Taylor. “We want to make sure that the kids understand that the police are role models and mentors as well and it’s good when the community and police join forces for a common good. In this instance, we are raising money for the Music Makers program that is part of our character development program that I designed when I joined the club just over three years ago.”
Davenport Member of Parliament Julie Dzerowicz, Member of Provincial Parliament Cristina Martins and Councillor Ana Bailao were at the finish line to greet Kuck.
“I serve with Bill Blair (former Toronto Police Chief) in Ottawa and whenever I talk to him about Davenport, he tells me I have an unbelievable superintendent in Heinz Kuck,” said Dzerowicz. “I want to thank Heinz for his leadership, for taking care of this community and helping to build relationships that are making a difference.”