2017 will see the opening of a new extension of the CONC family – The George Chuvalo Community Centre. Set to be our ‘new home for community happenings’, the centre will be an exciting, accessible and open-ended 7,000 square foot community space where creativity, inclusive leadership, empowerment and innovation will be supported, encouraged and celebrated.
The naming of the space was a direct result of the overwhelming support of Ward 18 community residents. The successful petition was organized by Davenport councillor Ana Bailão, naming Chuvalo as an important historic figure for the community. Chuvalo was born into a working class immigrant family on Hook Ave. in 1937. He attended St. Rita’s School and his mother worked at Symington Ave. and Dupont St. for Royce Dupont St. Chicken Packers. From these beginnings, he went on to reign as the Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion for 21 years, from 1958 until 1979. Ranked in the top 10 of World Boxing for much of his career, he faced many of the best fighters of this century, including Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. He subsequently retired from boxing in 1979 as the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Canada.
Apart from his success as a top athlete, what makes the centre a fitting tribute is how he spent his retirement years – giving back by advocating and educating community members across the country about the dangers and realities of drug addiction.
In his talks, George speaks openly about the personal loss of 3 sons and a wife as a result of substance abuse. His graphic recollection of events and his expressive nature enable him to convey his powerful message. The feedback he receives has been positive, appreciative and encouraging. His presentations were in demand from coast to coast as he was able to provide a first-hand account of living with the realities of addiction.
“Face your problems head on. Do what you have to do to take care it. Develop a good work ethic.” – George Chuvalo
He also stresses the fact that in the criminal system, the majority of crimes are committed as a result of substance abuse. In most cases, addicts turn into criminals, not criminals into addicts. He leaves audiences with a message of hope for our future while putting a special focus of reaching those who are at risk.
To date, he has been to over 300 schools, numerous detention centers and has also met with many parent support groups.
In October 1998, he received the “Order of Canada” medal in recognition of his hard work and dedication to Canada’s youth.
We are proud to be able to provide services in a centre that will bear his name and we look forward to working with community members when we open our doors! For those interested in helping out with fundraising or volunteering for the centre, fill out a volunteer application to get in touch with our Director of Operations.