It is always heart-warming to see how this community comes together to pay homage to its young athletes who have risen above the crowd during the previous 12 months. This takes place each January in the form of the annual Sackville Sports Recognition Night, when those who have been nominated take their place to receive special certificates from the mayor and other officials.
It is doubtful if any other community, large or small, can match Sackville in this respect – actually there may be no other community that offers a total menu of activities for its young people. There is little doubt, however, that some of these boys and girls will ultimately wind up as members of the Sackville Sports Wall of Fame.
This is a far cry from years ago when town fathers refused to provide any assistance for recreational activities. Your columnist clearly recalls being denied even some token help in preparing ball fields for use, being told that if young people were interested in playing games then let them do the necessary raking, levelling and removal of stones from the infield.
Since the 1980s, we have been fortunate in having a succession of mayors and councillors who see the value of a well-balanced recreation program for not only children but for all ages. From Mayor Will Campbell, who was instrumental in facilitating the Sports Wall of Fame, to current chief magistrate Bob Berry and including Jamie Smith and Pat Estabrooks, we have elected people who have shown courage and foresight by offering healthy activities.
During a discussion with a young man who had recently moved to Sackville, he was asked what he saw different from his previous community and Sackville. Without hesitation, he said "the town I left offered literally nothing like this which meant kids got into a lot of trouble, while in Sackville there is just so much to do I don't have time to take in everything."
The local recognition night is coordinated by the Sports Wall of Fame Board and funded by town council. As usual, host Steve Ridlington (The Voice) did an outstanding job and made each young person feel proud through proper introduction. He covered a wide range of athletic activities and for individual teams and one group of adults - the local Legion dart team - was singled out. The quartet of Norman Saunders, Jeff McAllister, Stephen Wells and Maurice Hicks earlier brought home the NB Legion 8-ball championship.
The celebration of support last week brought out more fans than at anytime in the eight year history of the event. An estimated 200 filled the lobby of the Tantramar Regional Veterans Memorial Civic Centre.
And something new was in the air - a growing understanding of sport recognition - by the leaders of Sackville's two sister communities. Port Elgin Mayor Judy Scott was making her very first visit to the rink while Dorchester Mayor J.J.Bear was also on hand to bring greetings and support. Sackville Mayor Bob Berry said the two dignitaries had been especially invited since young people from all regions were included on the list of recipients.
Actually Bear made the presentation of certificates to three from his area. He said Dorchester is proud of all the winners while Scott said the young people were examples of the quality of individual being developed in the region.
Meanwhile, Tantramar MLA Mike Olscamp cautioned the young athletes never to forget all those adults who have volunteered their time to bring them to this point. And he urged them, as they continue to develop and mature, to be prepared to do the same – to become committed volunteers so the next generation of young people will enjoy the same success.
And Mayor Berry said it was a night to thank everybody since such things can never happen without volunteers.
The Sackville Sport Recognition Night has become a tradition, one that is more than a little unique in that Sackville may be the only community showing such support to its youth. It is to be encouraged and more and more boys and girls, reaching new heights in performance, should be urged to attend along with their parents and friends. It really says something about whom we are as an expanded village.
And the event should spur folks to begin to think about who they would like to see inducted into the sports hall of fame next year. This induction is held every second year and there are many accomplished performers out there who easily qualify, they only need to be nominated. We have national level swimmers, boxers, marksmen, football players, golfers, curlers, runners and the list goes on - all who should be recognized.
The nomination is relatively simple – pick up the forms at town hall, do some research, complete four pages of questions, sign and submit – perhaps a couple of hours at most. Wouldn't it be marvelous if the selection committee was forced to hold several meetings just to whittle the list down to workable size? Let's go for it and prove that the growth in interest of the recognition night carries over to the sports wall.