The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre will no longer be named after the ex-Calgary Flame who rollerbladed across the country in support of sexual abuse victims.
On December 11, Sheldon Kennedy released a statement explaining that he would be removing his name from the facility after eight years as its namesake.
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“I now understand that my name on the building really meant a personal responsibility for the day to day practice, the wellness of our front-line workers, the satisfaction of our donors and volunteers and the proper treatment of the victims we serve. This has been a very rewarding eight years of my life and, at the same time, it has taken its toll,” Kennedy said in the statement, which was published on Respect Group Inc’s website.
The Child Advocacy Centre opened in 2012 and was renamed the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in 2013 during a ceremony with then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Kennedy has been a voice for victims of sexual assault since the 80s when he came forward about his own sexual abuse experiences in relation to junior hockey coach Graham James.
The 10-year NHL veteran also made headlines in 1998 when he rollerbladed across Canada to raise funds and awareness for sexual assault victims.
Now, Kennedy states that he needs to “take [his] own advice,” by allowing himself some time to take care of his mental health — but that’s not to say that there isn’t more to come from the ex-Flame.
“Today, I am healthy and excited about my next chapter. I will continue the crusade, but with greater balance,” he said in the closing paragraph of his statement.
“I am also comforted to know that the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre and our community are ready to carry the torch. It has become clear that I will not be able to achieve the critical balance I need in my life without taking my name off the Centre. Furthermore, our community will never fully own the issues with my name still on it.
“The time has come and the future is bright.”
The centre will be renamed to the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre following Kennedy’s decision.
Kennedy’s full statement can be found below:
I write this with some sadness, a great sense of relief and, with no regrets. I have given it my all.
For the last 23 years I have made myself personally accessible and available to advocate and help those in need of telling their stories of abuse. I have spoken, one on one with thousands of victims, engaged in countless media interviews, keynote speeches, fundraisers, lobbied governments to change legislation and even in-line skated across Canada to raise awareness. It has been a daunting and all-consuming commitment.
From first introducing the idea of a Child Advocacy Centre to our Chief of Police in 2010, to opening the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre in 2012 and having it renamed the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in 2013, I further stepped up that important work through my volunteer commitment to the SKCAC. I now understand that my name on the building really meant a personal responsibility for the day to day practice, the wellness of our front-line workers, the satisfaction of our donors and volunteers and the proper treatment of the victims we serve. This has been a very rewarding 8 years of my life and, at the same time, it has taken its toll.
For the past several months I have had ongoing and emotional conversations with my family and close friends. They have been a great support and, through this process, I have decided to remove my name from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.
I always preach to others that, first and foremost, they need to take care of their own mental health and find balance in their lives. I now need to take my own advice.
I need to refocus my efforts on my work at Respect Group, the company I co-founded, that educates those involved in sport, schools and the workplace on the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination. We have trained over 1.2 million Canadians thus far but there is much more to be done including our involvement in the International Safe Sport movement. And, most importantly, I want to give my full attention and love to my family. My daughter Ryan, who is now in University, my partner Jen and our five month old son, Lochlin. I want to be present and enjoy being the best dad and partner I can possibly be.
I want to acknowledge all of the front line workers that have or continue to work at the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre. You are my heroes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And to each of the Agencies who took the risk of working together, you have demonstrated that integrated practice is possible and creates better outcomes for victims. You have also set the standard for your colleagues across the province working in the other regional Child Advocacy Centres.
I want to thank the media for your incredible support. You were always there to help tell my story and leverage the message to educate Canadians and offer solutions. You have allowed us to change the conversation on these issues forever.
I want to thank every corporation, individual and event that gave so generously to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. You have all made a significant difference with your kind gifts. I know you will continue to support the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.
To those who have served on the Board, the SKCAC core staff and volunteers, thank you for your passion and dedication.
To Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Honourable Rona Ambrose and The Honourable Peter MacKay: thank you for understanding the importance of Child Advocacy Centres, the impact of early childhood trauma and for your leadership in creating the Victims Bill of Rights. I am honoured to have been able to work with each of you. Thank you for helping us elevate the conversation to a level not previously seen.
To the thousands of victims we have served: be proud that you have found your voice, stay strong and make healing your focus. You continue to inspire me.
To those victims who still may not have come forward: you will always have a safe place to go and be heard at the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre.
Today, I am healthy and excited about my next chapter. I will continue the crusade, but with greater balance. I am also comforted to know that the Calgary Child Advocacy Centre and our community are ready to carry the torch. It has become clear that I will not be able to achieve the critical balance I need in my life without taking my name off the Centre. Furthermore, our community will never fully own the issues with my name still on it. The time has come and the future is bright.
Sheldon Kennedy, CM, AOE, OM