Regina runners in hot water over Jamaica video
Video footage that shows Regina's Dirty Dozen marathon runners drinking in a Jamaican bar after a major competition has created a storm of controversy.
The running program, organized by the North Central Family Centre to help inner city teenagers lead better lives, required team members to promise to abstain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Their all-expenses-paid trip to Negril, Jamaica in December for a running meet received strong community support, in large part because it promoted a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.
The video, apparently shot by one of the group and later obtained by the Regina Leader-Post, shows the team members in a bar celebrating the end of the event, drinking shots. Other footage is reported to show them smoking.
Even though participant Glen Prettyshield did some of the drinking, he said Monday he wishes he hadn't, because it took away from what was otherwise a great trip.
"I totally regret it," he told CBC News.
The controversy prompted the centre's executive director and trip chaperone, Sandy Wankel, to hand in her resignation, but the centre's board refused to accept it at a meeting Monday.
At least one major sponsor, Regina advertising agency Phoenix Group, which recently pledged $100,000 to the centre, said it has no plans to withdraw its support.
"In fact, I would argue that now, more than ever, they are going to require this funding," president Graham Barker said in an interview Tuesday.
"While we are deeply disappointed over the revelation and situation, as it is related to the Dirty Dozen in Jamaica, we nevertheless are committed to the centre, because we fully support what they are doing and have seen the results of their initiatives.
"We will certainly stick with them, through thick and thin."
The Regina Airport Authority, which donated $4,300 towards the trip, was disturbed by the reports, chairman Larry Schneider said.
"Disappointment — great disappointment actually — because we firmly believed in the program," Schneider said Tuesday.
"We firmly believed in the North Central Family Centre and its many programs … so to be exposed to a video that showed what appeared to be these young people taking a retrogressive step, in terms of a program that was designed to provide them with that much more optimism for the future, was greatly disappointing."
Programs such as this one rely heavily on community support, and still have much merit despite this incident, he said.
North Central Regina gained national prominence in 2007 when Maclean's magazine dubbed it Canada's "worst neighbourhood" because of its poverty, violent crime, prostitution and drug culture.