Duncan Keith enjoys “mud” tea time with Aleigha Chaffey (pouring) and Ciara Jones during a visit to the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre in June. Through his charity Keith has entered into a three-year partnership to help the centre and its families. Mark Brett/Western News

Keith charity to help OSNS families

NHLer Duncan Keith’s charity to help child and youth development centre

Although the NHL season is still nearly two months away, local hometown hockey hero Duncan Keith has scored big time with the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre and the families it supports.

It was announced Thursday that the Chicago Black Hawks all star defenceman, through his Keith Relief charity and Chicago Black Hawks Charities, has entered into a three-year funding agreement with the centre.

Keith will be at OSNS next Thursday at the groundbreaking for the purpose-built, resilient-surface Play Court, the first of several planned projects he has committed to.

The donation will come in two facets, each year will see dedicated funds going to families in financial crisis in the care of their children and annually there will be the start of an outdoor project to enhance the facility to maximize support for kids.

The spring of 2018 will see the beginning of the Duncan Keith Adventure Playground on the upper portion of the centre grounds.

Developed with OSNS physiotherapists, the playground will provide exciting new elements to help build the strength, co-ordination and muscle tone of its youthful benefactors.

“From my perspective as board chair, obviously we’re thrilled that Duncan has taken a serious interest in what we do and the fact we are dealing with families in need,” said OSNS board chairman Shannon Simpson. “We’re thrilled he’s taken such an interest in what we’re doing and the amount of children that we see every year. Obviously this is his way of giving back in his home town.

“Part of the donation is to help those families in crisis who for whatever reason or for whatever life circumstances need that help and for that, the Keith Relief fund is absolutely critical.”

Keith first became interested in the centre’s work at the Wildstone Group of Companies Colours4Kids Run in support of the centre last June.

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Keith was asked by his good friend Mark Melissen, president of Wildstone, if he would participate in the event and he showed up to sign autographs and donated raffle items.

He then made a couple of visits to the centre to see first hand the work being done there.

“I’m not too familiar with developmental problems like autism, so just to see what they go through on a day-to-day basis, their struggles and the help they get there was very important,” said Keith after his first trip to the centre. “It’s all about the kids, getting the help and support they need to develop and succeed.”

Manisha Willms, OSNS executive director, recalled his strong interest during those initial visits.

“He was very at home with the kids, he just sat right down and had a mud tea party and enjoyed being around the kids and hanging out,” said Willms Thursday. “Duncan was a very engaged visitor and wanted to know more and about the value of paediatric care and quality programming. It was very special to have that energy in our centre.

“For me as a therapist having the right play space and the right therapy is so very important. It’s not just a playground, at OSNS part of our responsibility is support kids in things that are hard for them without them knowing it, this donation will help us do just that.”

The groundbreaking is planned for 11 a.m.