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Where it all began, British Columbia, Canada.
In 2007, as a patrol officer with his respective law enforcement agency, Kal came across many young people falling victim to drug abuse and gang violence. It was during that time he came across a young boy in the late hours on the streets of Downtown Eastside getting his drugs ready for consumption. Kal had seen enough, had made enough arrests, and had made up his mind to no longer be a part of the problem, rather be a part of the solution. He felt the need to do more. He made up his mind that night to not make any arrests. As he approached the young boy, the boy threw everything to the side and started to walk away. Kal asked him to stop once, and then twice. The boy turned around and extended his wrists forward – ‘arrest me if you want, otherwise I figure I am free to go’ – were the words of this hardened twelve year old. After Kal made repeated efforts to know more about why this boy was strolling through the most violent streets at an early hour of the morning. The boy finally broke and asked Kal where he would be if his dad was lying drunk on the sofa, not knowing or caring where his kids may be, his mom having left him at a time when he needed her the most, and an older brother doing time for his crimes after having been raised in a house that does not identify as home. ‘Where would you be?’ Those words fostered the epiphany for Kal. Wearing his uniform symbolized his absolute devotion and discipline to serving the community. The tenth Sikh Guru declared that it was imperative to be the voice for those that have been silenced, so , “that righteousness may flourish, that good may live, and tyrants be torn out by their root” On account of these ideological underpinnings, Kal was thus far proud of his heritage, which had also now become a part of his uniform. Unconditional service of the others was a principle he wished to preach, and that night changed him for the better. He approached his inspector for some nominal funding, successfully securing five hundred dollars. With that money, he went on his day off, with some other officers, to rid the Strathcona field of the needles and condoms that plagued the field which should otherwise be filled with children and families building safer communities together. Over 100 kids came on that day and played the sport of soccer, giving the same officers hugs that would otherwise seem intimidating while they tried to police and keep the peace in the streets of DTES. What is one day of soccer going to do? How much of a difference can this one event make? Questions like these arose but didn’t affect Kal the slightest bit. He continued this initiative, and year after year, the tournament grew. With the support of the department, and community stakeholders, Kal brought the same principle to BC Place Stadium, now having over 1000 kids and volunteers participate in the program. Then came 2015, when he decided to formally create KidsPlay Foundation – a platform that would allow any and all youth to participate in positive programming, regardless of their background. The first rule was to ensure each child coming through these programs would not have to spend a single cent. Now came critics wondering why not charge a dollar or two per program to cover some of the costs. ‘A dollar will become two, and then three, and before you know it, these financial barriers will prevent the kids that need us the most from coming to our programs.’ KidsPlay Foundation is now an organization that has served over 70,000 youth through various programs over the years. Some run solely by the organization and others in partnership with community organizations. Kal, being a big believer in not working in silos and knowing no one person or organization has all the solutions, is open to working with all community stakeholders to prevent another child from becoming a statistic and build a safer world for generations to come. Kal has served as CEO of our organization in a volunteer capacity since the inception. It all started with the BC Chapter and now KidsPlay Foundation operates in BC, AB, ON, and internationally in Punjab, India and Colombia.