Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Former BC Lions running back recalls his journey from the Deep South to north of the border


You may know him as the quiet, soft-spoken guy helping you behind the counter at Renfrew Park Community Centre, but John Henry White was once a punishing force as a running back for the BC Lions.

Before he played over 120 games and racked up over 8,000 yards in the Canadian Football League as #20 for the Lions, John Henry White very nearly remained in the United States. After starring for Louisiana Tech University, the diminutive White, who stands at 5’9”, had an outside chance of playing in the National Football League. Originally drafted in the eighth and final round of the 1978 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, White nearly made the Chiefs’ opening day roster.

“I was the final player released by the Chiefs that year,” explains White. “I could have easily stayed [in the NFL], but I would have been on the inactive roster and [the inactive roster] wasn’t nearly the same as it is today.”

Instead, White entertained the idea of migrating north. Although the BC Lions coach at the time, Vic Rapp, had been in contact with him during his college career, White knew very little about the CFL.

“I hadn’t really looked at the CFL much, I’m from the deep south of Louisiana, and I knew certain things about the CFL but not a lot,” recalls White. “The first team that [approached] me was Saskatchewan … I had never even heard of that name!”

After signing with BC, White was forced to adjust to the many differences between the Canadian and American version football, such as a wider field, one fewer down and the ability for multiple players to be in motion before the ball is snapped. Although he gained much of his knowledge through team classroom sessions and one-on-one talks with teammates, White still had to personally alter his game.

“[In college] you would look to go wide, get to the sideline and then go [upfield],” explains White, “but in the CFL, [the field] was so wide that you could just keep going east and west and end up going nowhere. That was a big transition.”

“The biggest thing was the motion, though. In college you could only have one guy in motion [before the snap] at once, up here you would sometimes have five guys moving at once; it was crazy.”

Once he had gotten a handle on the new game, White became a steady contributor for the Lions with 35 touchdowns over the course of 10 seasons in the league from 1978 to1987. Among his fondest memories of his time in the CFL are winning the 1985 Grey Cup and an 84-yard catch-and-run touchdown against Hamilton during the ’79 season.

Following the end of his football career, John Henry White chose to stay permanently in the city of Vancouver.

“It’s a beautiful city, but it’s actually the people that made me want to stay, ever since I first came here I’ve felt at home.”

John Henry White is currently a staff member at the Renfrew Park Community Centre and once coached the local junior football team, the Trojans.

Soren Elsay is a Langara student and an aspiring journalist.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News


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May 2013 issue of the RCC News is here

The new issue is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

RCC News May 2013Get your May 2013 issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Collingwood Days, Saturday, May 25 and Talent Show
  • Former BC Lions running back John Henry White – where is he now?
  • Slow-grilled lamb souvla – traditional recipe for Greek Orthodox Easter, by Rania Hatzioannou
  • Hoops for Hope at St. Mary’s a huge success
  • Van Tech music teacher receives award from Canadian star Shania Twain
  • She prays and I cook, Marino and Librada, a Collingwood couple

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email The deadline for the June issue is May 10, 2013.

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March issue of the RCC News is here

Get your March 2013 issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery story, library and community centre.

RCC News March 2013

Click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Albert Battistoni Celebration of Life
  • Changes to park board model under fire by Paul Reid
  • International Women’s Day: On women’s rights and their safety by Robert F. Edwards
  • Voting is as simple as A-B-C!
  • Lots going on with the Reflecting Still Creek project
  • History: Vancouver Vagabonds Club

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Quick Mind, Quick Feet: Claire Fergusson works toward her softball dreams


For grade 11 Windermere student Claire Fergusson, a love affair with the game that started at age five has now turned into a personal mission to play softball at the college level in the United States. After getting her start playing baseball in the Trout Lake Little League program, Fergusson switched over to softball at age nine and has been playing ever since.

This past fall Fergusson made the prestigious Synergy travel team in Maple Ridge, which focuses on providing young players exposure to college scouts.

“The Synergy team travelled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Houston, in October and November, to showcase local talents whose teams don’t usually travel as much,” explains Fergusson.

Most of the year, however, Fergusson can be found playing for the White Rock Renegades, training year-round, practising up to three days a week. On top of team practices, Fergusson works out once a week on a strength-and-conditioning program (set up by fitness trainer and former college softball player Jill Munro) with the aspiration to one day receive a scholarship to play in the United States.

Like most young athletes, one of Fergusson’s main priorities is to get stronger.

“I’d like to work on upper-body strength mostly,” says Fergusson. “I’m currently working on getting more power hitting right-handed and throwing.”

On top of that, Fergusson is currently perfecting the art of switch hitting, meaning being able to bat both left handed and right handed when called upon. More specifically, she is working on becoming a left-handed “slapper.”

“A left-handed slapper usually just tries to put the ball in play and then beat the throw [to first base] because you can run to first quicker [rather than the right-handed side of the plate],” Fergusson explains. “A lot of the time it screws up the defensive players because they have to always be guessing where [the batter] is going to put the ball.”

This would only add to the repertoire of an already versatile player who can play shortstop, centre field, pitcher and, because of her quickness, usually bats leadoff.

But the physical side of the game is not even her greatest strength, according to Fergusson.

“I think well on my feet, so when I am put in a situation I can make that snap, tenth-of-a-second decision and just go with it,” she says.
This sharpness of the mind is not only confined to the diamond. Claire is currently taking a full academic course load with the intentions of studying kinesiology and physiotherapy while at university. When asked about how she handles this enormous workload to go along with her training, Fergusson claims self-discipline is key.

“Just being able to lay a schedule out and follow it is the biggest thing,” Fergusson says.

Quite the humble athlete, Fergusson points out that she would not be in the position that she is without the support of those around her, particularly her parents and coaches.

With her natural athleticism and smarts to go along with an uncommon work ethic, Fergusson is primed to achieve anything she puts her mind to. Her current mindset is following her dream: attend college in the U.S. while playing the game she loves.

Soren Elsay is a Langara student and an aspiring journalist.

Let’s Play Ball!
Spring is just around the corner. Time to start thinking about signing up your kids to play baseball or softball.

Vancouver Minor Softball Association. Girls softball.

Trout Lake Little League. Baseball for boys and girls.

Vancouver Minor Baseball. Plays out of Nanaimo Park. February tryout dates.

Burnaby Minor Softball Association. Girls softball.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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February 2013 is here

Get your February 2013 issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery story, library and community centre.

RCCNews February 2013Click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Collingwood Cinemas: A cultural meeting place
  • Ramada Hotel on Kingsway bought by city of Vancouver
  • Eating Out in RC: Poor Italian Restaurant
  • Quick Mind, Quick Feet: Claire Fergusson works to follow her softball dreams
  • Collingwood’s newest community garden
  • Artists welcome neighbours to Art House in the Field

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January 2013 issue is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News January 2013

RCC News January 2013

Happy new year! Get your January 2013 issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery story, library and community centre.

Click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Barry Londry: Collingwood’s Humble Kitchen Expert, plus his recipes
  • Set Goals for Health, Not Weight
  • Eating Out in RC: ChoSun Korean BBQ Restaurant
  • Windermere Climate Change Conference Inspires Action
  • Fastbreak Soccer Delivers on Fun and Fair Play
  • And the Winner of the RCC News Suggestion Box Is …

Plus the Collingwood Neighbourhood House recreation insert.

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Go out and play

Focus on fun and basic skills the key to staying active


Less time exercising thumbs, more time running around: that’s what today’s youth need, according to Michael McLenaghen. With a successful professional soccer career, including eight international games for the Canadian Men’s National team behind him, McLenaghen is now the director of community services at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House where he oversees numerous sports-related activities for the children of the area.

“Young people are spending way too much time online, watching television and staying inside,” states McLenaghen.

His claims are not without reason. A recent Health Canada study showed that more than 30 percent of Canadian kids ages five to 17 were overweight, nearly double the average 30 years ago. Much of this has to do with kids not being physically active enough. Statistics Canada research shows that children spend on average almost nine hours a day being inactive, which equates to about 62 percent of their waking hours. A shift in the way we present and promote physical activity, particularly sport, is desperately needed. The man with a vision for this change is Mike McLenaghen.

For McLenaghen, the problem starts when kids are first enrolled into sports and recreation by their parents, usually around age five or six. He believes that kids should not be placed in teams and pitted against each other until age nine at least; instead we should be focusing on fun and the basics like developing ball skills.

“I think that young people need to be channelled into recreation and sporting activities where they learn basic movement skills,” says McLenaghen.

These basic skills include hand-eye coordination, jumping, kicking and rolling, and, according to McLenaghen, are best developed through a range of activities anywhere from gymnastics and dance to simple games such as kick the can and tag.

“From there you can channel kids into various sports such as hockey, soccer, baseball, but again the emphasis needs to be on their relation with the ball, the stick and puck or whatever it may be,” McLenaghen explains.

When we get away from fun and basics and incorporate competition and a lot of structure too early, or as McLenaghen put it, “channeling kids into adult models of sport,” we start running into the problem of kids quitting. McLenaghen points out that 60 percent of boys and girls who started playing sports at age five or six have quit by the time they are 14 years old.

“There is too much pressure, too much emphasis on competition, uniforms, trophies. Not enough emphasis on kids having fun, being creative and developing skills,” says McLenaghen. “Because if kids feel like they are going from [one level of skill to the next], and they keep progressing and getting better, they’re not going to quit. Kids don’t quit things that they get better at.”

McLenaghen also points out that some of the most beneficial activities that kids participate in are not organized by adults at all. For example, impromptu games of tag or pick-up basketball with friends allow them to use their own initiative and creativity as well as stay active.

“The value of unstructured play, I can’t over-emphasize that enough,” states McLeneghan. “It doesn’t need to come down to structured, organized recreation and sport activity all the time, and I think it’s a huge problem as well. We are structuring kids to death, and they get fed up with it.”

With new technology seemingly coming out daily, staying inside and playing with new gadgets is as tempting as ever. For McLenaghen’s vision to become a reality, parents, community leaders and children themselves must be proactive (see Mike’s Tips below). With a bit of help, McLenaghen hopes that youth will want to get up and, as every mom used to say, “Go out and play.”

Mike’s Tips for Parents to Get Their Kids Active

  1. Do research: Finding the right situation and people is crucial. “Make the effort to go out and find not just good coaches in sport, but good leaders and good teachers.”
  2. Set limits: Parents should closely monitor how much time their children are spending online. “TV, iPhones, iPads, computers, all of it. [Parents] need to be tough, set clear boundaries for the kids.”
  3. After-school programs: 3:00 to 5:00 pm is a key time for keeping kids active because this is the time usually that kids are getting off school but parents are still at work. “[The children] go home, they are [roughly] 12 years old, and they do whatever, play video games and those kinds of things. It’s not that you have to have all of the[children’s] time structured, but at times like after school they need some support, and it needs to be quality support.”
  4. Check out local programs that provide a safe place for kids to be active: “Collingwood Neighbourhood House provides great gymnastics and dance programs for children right down from two years old all the way up to 12 years old. As well as a number of sport activities like soccer, basketball, floor hockey.”

 Soren Elsay is a Langara student and an aspiring journalist.

© Copyright (c) 2012 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News