FREDERIC SERRE and CATHY KRAWCHUK – November 2, 1994
ln 1986, Devon Rice’ s three-year-old daughter was abducted by a stranger. After a two-monthlong search, the child was found alive and safe, bringing Rice’s nightmare to an end.
As a result of the incident, Rice decided to fight back against crime.
ln 1992, she travelled to the United States where she found that, unlike Canada, the U.S. offered man y crime prevention programs geared toward kids.
Sixteen months ago, Rice, 50, launched StreetSmart Kids, a weekend-long program that teaches children and young adults in the Greater Montreal are a how to defend themselves against child abductors, school yard bullies and muggers.
The course teaches children as young as six to value themselves, Rice says. Children learn to boost their self esteem. They are also taught how to defend themselves against strangers who try to physically assault them by trained self-defence instructors who hold demonstrations.
« Il’s much more th an self defence, » Rice said yesterday. « We don’t even calI it self defence. »
Rice says parents who are concerned about the recent spat of attempted child abductions and perverts in the West Island should enrol their children in her program. But, she adds, her course is not enough. Schools and other groups in the community must make a united effort to teach kids how to deal with abductors, she said.
Eight months ago, Rice approached the Lakeshore School Board and the Baldwin-Cartier School Commission, requestingto make a video presentation to classrooms in local schools. Her offer was turned down by both boards.
IronicalIy, since news of two recent attempted abductions in Beaconsfield and the as sault of three children at Baie d’Urfé’s Dorset School was made public, Rice has received calls from schools throughout the Montreal area, except the West Island.
Rice, however, has received many calls from concerned local parents, who have been shaken up by the attempted attacks on kids, and want to enrol their children in her program.
Street-Smart Kids is a non-profit, registered charitable organization. The cost of a weekend workshop is $135 per child. To reach Rice, parents are urged to calI 937-0441 or 935-6606.
George Manoli, a Montreal Urban Community police officer, also offers assault prevention programs for children and teenagers.
He started programs for women in 1982 and has been doing sessions for children for about two years.
Since the recent incidents involving children, in the West Island, Manoli said he has had increased calls for private lessons, from groups requesting hands-on attack simulations and from schools.
His course spans a six-week period and is offered through the West Island YMCA as well ,_ as various schools in the Montreal area.
« Il’ s not the type of thing you do just once, » he stressed. « You really have to do it over a period of time. »
The cost of the course ranges from $60 to $65.
Manoli can be reached by calling 328-4683.
Wendy Hunziker of Pointe Claire, whose son 1 was abducted by a stranger but unharmed 10 years ago, said parents should enrol their children in assault prevention sessions.
Hunziker said she has another son currently taking the program run by Manoli. Her daughter . has taken the same program and now helps with the demonstrations.
« Parents may say, ‘1 don’t want to scare my. kid, »’ Hunziker said. « But the approach is so: relaxed that the children are not scared by the teaching. »