Cst. John Gravengard, recently featured in VPD’s celebration of Asian Heritage month, is no stranger to the Vancouver Police Foundation or to going above and beyond to help others. He has been the recipient of a number of VPF grants for troubled or at-risk youth, most recently for basketball camps and a program to support Musqueam youth around the Pulling Together Canoe Journey.
Like many VPD members, John became a police officer to help people and to serve the community. Growing up in East Vancouver, he observed many youth who had run-ins with the police. But he also saw that police are in a unique position to build bridges with the community and to help individuals make better life choices. He believes that people who interact with police in a less formal, fun and casual environment see the police for who they are – as people who just want to help and make a difference. It’s one of the reasons why John continues to volunteer so much of his own time.
Almost ten years ago, John met a young man [we’ll call him Paul*] through one of the basketball clinics he was participating in. Paul had lost his father and also struggled with autism. Paul’s mother also passed shortly after they met, leaving just Paul’s sister to look out for him. John took Paul under his wing and helped him to acquire life skills, a better ability to understand the world around him and how to cope with challenging situations.
John learned of an incident where another man “befriended” Paul, then robbed him of his television, gaming console, and other personal items. John used the opportunity to teach Paul how to recognize warning signs and to better protect himself from people who would take advantage of him. We asked John what he thought would have happened to Paul without his intervention, and John believes that Paul would have continued to trust unsavoury people who prey on good-natured people. Today, Paul is doing really well and volunteers at John’s basketball camps.
John is the father of a young child and is very engaged in his role as the VPD’s Musqueam Liaison Officer. His life is very busy, but he feels that it is important to volunteer and support the community. He credits his mother with instilling this drive in him – as a single mother, she not only raised John and his two siblings but worked to support them and volunteered in the community with the little spare time she had.
We have seen first-hand the positive impact that John’s programs have in the community and are honoured to be able to support his work to make life better for youth and to help them establish positive relationships with police officers. We would also like to thank Thiessen Equipment for their generous donations to support the Musqueam basketball and Pulling Together programs that John leads.
*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.
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