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Sun Youth helped Tony Mohammed and his three children cope with their mother’s loss by giving them a sense of community and the opportunity to help others.

Over the years, Sun Youth has helped many Montrealers through its food bank and other assistance programs but, for Tony Mohammed, it was in coaching one of their football teams that he found the support he needed most.

In late 2016, the 39-year-old ville St. Laurent father of three learned that his wife, Dany Rouen, had breast cancer. One of his passions was coaching football at Sun Youth where he played when he was a teenager but he stopped so he could be by his wife’s side during her treatments.

“We had started doing radiotherapy because chemo was not reducing the cancer, but she was always trying to get me out of the house to go coach. When I had the opportunity, I would go, if just to clear my mind because I was spending 24-seven with her and the kids.”

– Tony Mohammed

Dany understood that for her husband, Sun Youth was not just about football; it was part of his identity and was something he needed to connect with during their family ordeal.

“Football has always been a part of my life. It was the main sport that I played growing up and it gave me a sense of family and community knowing that there were people around me who were there for me, to look out for me and give me a shoulder to lean on. It kept me sane”, says Tony.

Dany’s breast cancer spread to her spine and brain and as her condition worsened, she was eventually hospitalized. The couple were married in a bedside ceremony in the hospital during her final weeks. After her funeral, Mohammed returned to Sun Youth for emotional support and an attempt to restore some normalcy to his life by being with the team he coached.

“I went back and coached the championship game. The kids on my team rallied and we won the game, and I took it as a sign that my wife was still with us.”

– Tony Mohammed

It wasn’t just Tony Mohammed who benefitted from being around Sun Youth since his wife’s passing. The organization also helped his three children cope with their mother’s loss by giving them a sense of community and the opportunity to help others. Tony’s two boys play football and his daughter just started playing in Sun Youth’s recreational basketball program.

“I have seen the personal development of my oldest son especially,” says Tony. “He’s the one with the most memories of his mom and I think for him he appreciates having other people around when he’s at Sun Youth. He’ll say he may not have a mom, but he has friends there who have moms who appreciate him like their own son.”

Sun Youth has become like a second family to them. He appreciates that not only does the organization help his children learn about teamwork and have fun playing sports with other youth, but has also introduced them to the social mission helping Montreal’s less fortunate. The family often volunteers when Sun Youth needs extra hands.

“At the end of the day, we all go through hard times. It doesn’t matter where you come from or your background. The message at Sun Youth is that no one is above anyone else and that they will always be there to give you a helping hand.”

– Tony Mohammed

Sports have been part of the charitable organization’s DNA since the late Earl De La Perralle founded it with Sid Stevens 70 years ago. The philosophy of these programs hasn’t changed since then, which is that no matter a child’s financial background or level of ability, they have the right to play sports.

Sun Youth director of community services and athletics Guinness Rider says the organization is committed to that ideal, but acknowledged that rising costs are making it more expensive to operate their programs. Nonetheless, it remains committed to offering recreational activities for families that might otherwise be shut out because of cost, which is why Sun Youth’s fees are based on household income.

“Every kid has a right to play, so if a kid comes to us and they want to play basketball, whether it’s competitively or they just want to play in the recreational stream, and they can’t pay, our goal is to get the kid out there living a healthier lifestyle.”

Beyond the benefits of good health, Guinness Rider thinks that keeping kids active yields numerous benefits, from helping them focus and improving their grades to integrating them into the society around them.

Tony Mohammed agrees and cites his own children as examples. He hopes Montrealers will continue supporting Sun Youth’s mission to provide sports programs for children who couldn’t otherwise afford them. While donations are one of the best ways to support them, he also encourages more people to offer their time as volunteers.

“We all have time. It’s how we manage that time and how we prioritize what we want to do with it.”

To find out more about Sun Youth’s sports programs and how you can support their efforts to keep Montreal’s youth stay healthy, go to .

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