Inspired to volunteer

Kevin Breen works at Keyano College as the Chair of the Construction Trades. He also is President of the Fort McMurray Minor Baseball Association and Co-host of the 2016 Canada Cup Host Committee. He was our guest on IMPACT on April 5th and shared his story.

Kevin, like so many others in the community during the boom years, was working long and hard building a successful business and providing for his family. Things were humming in his professional life when a former instructor at Keyano College starting calling, asking him to apply for his job that had just opened up; he had been promoted to Dean.

“Right away I said no, not interested,” said Breen. “I got my own company going, things are going really well, and I’ve got lots of work lined up. But he wouldn’t leave me alone. He called me up a few more times. He thought I was the right guy for the job.”

In an attempt to settle the matter once and for all, Kevin agreed to go in for a meeting, thinking that it might end the phone calls. Little did he know that agreeing to that meeting would change his life.

“Justin, my five year old at the time, woke up that morning and was surprised I was at house,” he shared. “Normally I would always leave early and get home late.”

“Dad, what are you doing here?” asked Justin.

“I’m just trying something different today Justin,” replied Kevin.

And when he was heading out the door Justin asked “Dad, are you working late today again today?”

“It was like a punch in the stomach,” said Breen. “I said, you know what, I am probably working late today. But, I’ll do something today so I don’t have to work late again.”

He took the job that day, and went from an 80-hour week to a 35-hour week to spend more time with his kids. What has been the impact?

“There’s something to be said about sitting and having supper together,” he said. “I still probably work 70 hours a week, but most of my time is spent with them working, whether it’s on the field or inside on the ice. That 35 hours I’m saving from work I’m getting back with my family. I joke around that once they’re too old and they don’t want me around anymore, I’ll go back to work.”

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Volunteering for Kevin and his wife Danylle, is part of their family’s DNA. Following in the footsteps of parents who always got involved, the couple jumped in as soon as their kids were old enough to play. They jumped in as coaches and at the end of the year, end up at the Annual General Meeting.

“At the end of the season, it was time to go to the AGM,” he recalled. “We figured that everyone goes to the AGM. When we got there, it was six of us. We all got a job to do. Some of us got more than one job to do.”

Originally from Coachman’s Cove, Newfoundland, Kevin has been living in Fort McMurray since 1989. He attended Composite High School and eventually Keyano. But what was it like moving from a small community on the east coast to a larger centre in Alberta’s north?

“That was an adjustment,” he said. “Coachman’s Cove has a population of just under a hundred. We had twelve kids in my high school class.”

“We grew up with every sport,” he said. “But we didn’t have organized sports. It was whatever was on TV that day. We only had one channel and everyone was watching the same thing. If there was a soccer game on, we all got together and played soccer. If there was a baseball game on, we’d go play baseball.”

As spring takes hold and summer nears, Kevin and the many volunteers with Fort McMurray Minor Baseball are preparing for an exciting season ahead and hosting the 2016 Canada Cup, featuring some of the best 17 and under baseball players in the country. Happening between August 3 – 8, the event will include teams from each province and first-class baseball action at Shell Place and Ross Hennigar Field in Thickwood.

Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online (www.middleagebulge.com) and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.