July 31, 2020 · 0 Comments
By Brian Lockhart
A local Ontario Provincial Police Officer has been honoured for his community involvement and dedication to helping youth choose the right path in life.
OPP Detective Sergeant, Steve Coburn, has been awarded the 2020 IODE Police Community Relations Award in recognition of his important work.
When D/Sgt. Coburn experienced first hand the perpetual relationship between poverty, low education achievement, and encounters with the justice system, he was inspired to do something that would help alleviate these factors in society.
Upon learning that childhood nutrition dramatically improves a positive social outcome, he decided to fight food insecurity in his community.
An avid runner himself, he created the Compass Run for Food.
D/Sgt. Coburn regularly competes in running events and has completed full marathons.
In June 2014, the first Compass Run for Food hosted around 200 runners. In 2019 the run had grown to include over 770 runners as well as 200 kids from local schools in Dufferin County.
The Compass Run for Food gets underway at Compass Community Church and runners head out to the trails at the Island Lake Conservation area following either a 5 K route or a 10.1 K route for experienced runners who like to go the distance.
“We have a great race executive. It’s not just me,” D/Sgt. Coburn said of planning and coordinating the large running event. “We went from our first year of $10,000 and 200 runners to last year with 750 runners and 200 kids. It’s really grown. Everything is in Orangeville – we start at the church and go across the street to the Conservation Area and that’s where you do your 5 K or 10.1 K run. We’ve got some elite runners who can do that 5 K in about 15 minutes.”
The 10.1 is considered a quarter-marathon.
The event includes the run as well as several activities and entertainment at the starting point at the church.
While some runners are very competitive, others come out simply to enjoy the event and take part in something for a good cause while getting some exercise.
Through his work with the O.P.P, D/Sgt. Coburn sees many of the sad side effects of growing up in poverty. A member of the O.P.P. Polygraph Unit since 2009, he deals with people who have committed the worst crimes in the province.
A local resident, he is based out of O.P.P Headquarters in Orillia.
“Most of my work is homicide and with the polygraph,” D/Sgt. Coburn explained about his duties with the O.P.P. “I travel the province. The work I’m doing now is child sexual abuse and homicide – stuff with kids is a priority for us. This really has become a social justice event. We realize we can educate, especially kids. That empowers them and they won’t go down a certain road that has a lot of consequences. I’ve see the fallout from homicide, domestic violence, drug overdoses, all that stuff.”
D/Sgt. Coburn is known for treating all interviewees with respect and compassion, regardless of their circumstances.
The money raised at the Compass Runs goes directly to help the Food Banks in Orangeville, Shelburne, and Grand Valley, as well food programs at six local schools.
To date, the Compass Run has given $186,000 to the Food Banks and school programs.
“On race day we have a lot of people out. It’s a big project and the Food Banks want to be a part of it. All the individual Food Banks come to the race. They are part of our race staff. It’s not like we show up and give them a cheque. They are part of what we are doing.”
D/Sgt. Coburn’s drive to interact with community has him looking toward the next chapter of his career at a detachment where he can become even more involve in community initiatives.
The 2020 IODE Police Community Relations Award recognizes his contribution to the community of which he is part and strives to improve.
The Compass Run for Food won’t take place this year in the traditional sense due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However virtual run will still take place.