It's a Long Story
In 1989 Rick Kirschner was a police officer in Peterborough. For 10 years he had been working with troubled youth in the city who had broken the law and his heart was breaking for them, and for others like them all over the world. In a conversation with his staff sergeant, a call to action was brought to light, and Rick could no longer ignore his passion to help young people. His sergeant said that the police force’s approach to youth was always reactive and they weren’t going to change youth culture unless they became proactive. At first Rick started to give up his free time in favour of playing basketball with students at a nearby high-school, but when this was not enough to silence his need to change youth culture, he resigned from the police force and took a job at Selwyn Outreach Centre. While employed there he worked with their youth group, became the principal of their Christian school, took students on mission trips and encouraged them to use their talents to make music.
In 1992 Rick and Cathy knew the next step in their journey to helping youth culture was to make it official. While Rick was youth pastoring and Cathy was teaching elementary school they started a charity: Kings Kids Promotions Outreach Ministries. The vision -- Reaching, Building and Activating people to make a positive difference in the world. The plan -- Reach out to youth through music, missions, media and mentorship. And although most people would call the Kirschners dreamers, even Rick and Cathy could have never dreamed that 25 years later, they’d be in Fort McMurray, with Rick as the general manager of a radio station he’d started, the brains that set the recording studio in motion and still having many of the youth they had helped and worked with in the 1980’s still on speed dial.
Over the years, King's Kids have called many different addresses home - starting in Peterborough with the Kirschners home office, to a dentist building with a recovery meth lab on Hunter Street, to a miracle building affectionately called the Kingswood Life Centre, then across the country to a basement in Fort McMurray and to their current home in the Fort McMurray Composite Highschool on King Street.
That miracle building we talked about was such a long process, and the credit that we were able to acquire it goes to God alone.
In 2005 The City of Peterborough wanted to sell The Kingswood Community Centre, which was located in the most densely populated area of the city, after they built a large recreation centre near the college and far away from the cities core. We proposed to buy the property to use it as a center to help the troubled youth. The building housed a pool, gym, weight room, convenience store and several offices. In a huge partnership with the Selwyn Outreach Centre, we presented the dream of bringing a drop-in youth hub to the city. An indoor skate park, a gym, a radio station and a recording studio would hopefully draw the youth of Peterborough to our safe zone. After much council deliberation, which included many naysayers trying to throw wrenches in our plans, we were finally granted the go-ahead. We moved into our new building and gave it a new name – The Kingswood Life Centre! It needed some renovations, but once it was done we were able to use it for so many different outreach efforts. It was a great place to house our offices, to host concerts, to broadcast the radio station and for teens to come and hang out whenever they were free. It was from here that we launched the KAOS Koncert Series.
The KAOS Koncert Series was developed out of our passion to put local artists on stage and empower students to be creative in the field of performing arts. Once a month we hosted a battle of the bands, karaoke competition or concert. Another initiative to boost students confidence, called GAS, was started through the KAOS Koncert Series. Have you ever heard of the Gong Show? It was a television show which aired in the 1970’s and was centered on having a laugh at the expense of another. The Gong Show was set up as a talent show but the judges would hit a huge gong to make the performer get off the stage if they weren’t up to their standard. It would make everyone laugh and the performer would run off the stage and probably be extremely embarrassed for quite some time. It was sort of the original American Idol if Simon Cowell was the only judge. We were passionate about giving people a voice and a platform and wanted to do the opposite of embarrassing people, so we founded GAS… The Guaranteed Applause Show. Anyone could get up on stage with any talent and be assured that people would clap enthusiastically for them. It was a confidence booster and many people who got their start on our stage, were also featured on our recording projects and actually still remain friends with King’s Kids to this day.
Throughout our 25 years of existence we have made numerous CD's in an effort to get local artists heard, teach students the basics of song writing and and to reach people through music. One of the CD's we produced was in tribute to a high school student that had a profound impact on the students and adults we were working with.
Aaron Montgomery was a grade 12 student at Thomas A Stewart High-School, where Rick volunteered in the music program. Tragically, in a moment of deep depression and feeling of darkness arising being bullied, he took his life in the river behind his school. King’s Kids encouraged the students to turn their pain into art and facilitated the writing, recording and distributing of a CD project titled “Journey – A Tribute to Aaron Montgomery”. The album, paid for by King’s Kids, included a song recorded by Aaron and his parents when he was 12. The cover art displayed his graduation photo and photos of his friends. The back of the album showed a photo of Aarons locker and the outpouring of love and words of encouragement students had written on top of the hurtful words written by the bullies before he passed away. Each student at Aaron’s school was given the CD and a concert was held in his honour. This album brought together youth from various backgrounds into one unity project to stand up against bullying and homophobia.
We are passionate about seeing young people succeed and in 2007 and 2008 we hosted Drivers Skills training days. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of preventable death among youth in North America. In 2004 Ontario roads saw over 200,000 collisions and 18% of them were caused by students under the age of 24. We wanted to change that statistic and partnered with the Ministry of Transportation and local school boards to host a Driver Skills Rodeo! Our free event included workshops, a jaws of life demonstration, a motorcycle obstacle course, and a guest speaker who had been hit by a drunk driver and became paralyzed from the neck down.
In Alberta, the driving age is two years younger than in Ontario and the collision reports and statistics demonstrate that more driver education and training is needed for our young drivers also. To this end, we would love to continue this driver education initiative in Fort McMurray and King’s Kids is looking for partners to initiate this in Wood Buffalo for Spring of 2018. If you would like to get on board, call Rick at 780-791-5911.
In 2008, KAOS Repossession Company designed an initiative to engage high risk and homeless youth in Fort McMurray. Sixteen university students from all over Ontario came to help implement an outreach and intervention strategy to connect the youth with the needed supports of the community in Fort McMurray. In partnership with the Justin Slade Youth Foundation, the initiative’s home-base was centered around the Dugout Coffee House downtown. The volunteers held skateboard camps, taught music lessons, hosted drum circles and cooked and served food to the local youth. They also helped people to identify available social services and to break down the barriers of housing and security issues. They worked hard to bring good to life and the RCMP noted that the downtown youth crime dropped significantly that summer.
For over 20 years, Interplay has been a mainstay festival every summer on Fort McMurray streets. In 2007 KAOS launched the KAOS Café, which gave a platform for amateur performers to showcase their skills and talent. Hundreds of young local musicians were engaged and encouraged to play. Some were even recorded and played on KAOS 91.1’s airwaves in our Saturday night show The Indie Spotlight. Its been running for 10 years, and its current host Dave Martin commented on the show, ‘I have loved interviewing Canada’s and Wood Buffalo's indie music talent. It has been a wonderful journey celebrating Canadian creativity and giving developing artists space to grow and improve their song craft. Thank you to our listeners for supporting Canadian songwriters and composers and thank you to KAOS 91.1 for committing to showcase the music arts!’
The Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees is a wonderful annual event that we love to help with and it is an excellent way for many folks kick off the Christmas season! Since 2011, KAOS 91.1 has recruited, coordinated and hosted the local talent which plays on the community stage throughout the course of the weekend. Hundreds of performers including dancers, actors, choir singers, musicians, and cultural groups have been given an opportunity to perform for audiences as the guests viewed the beautiful Christmas trees decked out in all their splendor.
We are so blessed to have been given 25 years to work at what we're passionate about, and to share that passion with others. The stories, the people, the events the trips and the music - its hard to fit everything in to a quick essay or conversation or list. We'd love to tell more of this story, if you have helped out in any way, have favourite memories or funny stories, we'd love to hear from you - maybe even record your story for our archives page - please reach out and share it with us! And thank you for helping make King's Kids Promotions a reality!