Former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy is being presented with the second annual Courage Award by Assiniboine Community College.
“Since I came forward in 1996, my mission was simply to help others and make the future a safer place for our kids,” said Kennedy. “To receive awards for this work is such an amazing honour and I am so grateful to receive the 2018 Assiniboine Courage Award. It is especially meaningful having this happen in my own backyard!”
The Courage Award was established by Assiniboine in 2017 to commend and honour people who demonstrate courage in all its forms in their business, community, professional or personal life.
“We are honoured to have Sheldon Kennedy accept this award for the courage he demonstrated by coming forward about the sexual abuse he endured for years and for his continued advocacy work to prevent and treat child abuse across North America,” said Assiniboine president Mark Frison.
Born in Brandon in 1969 and raised in Elkhorn, Kennedy found hockey a natural outlet for his youthful energy.
“We only had 150 people who lived in our town, so we’d go play hockey. It was a way of life,” Kennedy recalls in Swift Current, the 2016 documentary about his life.
But the opportunity to play Major Junior hockey as a teenager turned sour when Kennedy was sexually abused by his coach, Graham James. He kept the secret locked inside for many years, fearing reprisals if he said anything.
Kennedy is now the Lead Director at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, the first of its kind in Canada, offering full services for victims of child abuse. He is also the Co-Founder of Respect Group, which provides education online to help prevent abuse, bullying and harassment.
During his professional hockey career, Kennedy was signed by four different National Hockey League teams and their American Hockey League affiliates, including the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose.
Kennedy’s life has been the subject of a 1999 TV movie, The Sheldon Kennedy Story, his 2006 book, Why I Didn’t Say Anything and Swift Current.
When Kennedy went public in 1996, his story inspired others to come forward, including NHL star Theo Fleury, who had been abused by the same coach. James was charged, convicted and sentenced to jail time in two separate trials, one for Kennedy and another player and the second one for Fleury and another player.
Kennedy will receive the award at a dinner in his honour on Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Victoria Inn and Convention Centre. Tickets are available on the college website at assiniboine.net/courage.
The dinner will be co-chaired by Sheila North Wilson, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak and Don Penny, founding partner and past chairman of MNP LLP (formerly Meyers Norris Penny), recipient of Assiniboine’s first Courage Award in 2017.