With a hard-earned university education in Marketing and Business Administration from McGill and a Master’s from Concordia, Denburk Reid’s subsequent employment history would further develop the skills he would need become the Founder and President of Montreal Community Cares Foundation.

The continuing success of the programs attest to the organization’s success in assisting less affluent and at-risk youth by “building a pathway to success through sports”. Denburk started the Red Rush Basketball Program in 2006 with 18 youth and closed out 2023 with 388 players and 18 teams. In total, 1,800 players have participated in the Red Rush program.

Denburk Reid

Denburk hosting a Montreal Community Cares Gala, scheduled for Spring of 2024

Coming from difficult situations and some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Montreal, over 75% of participants have graduated from high school and continued on the CEGEP, college or trade school. Fully 15% of program participants will be the first in their family to attend college or university. These statistics represent life-changing opportunities for the young people involved and their families.

Driven by a desire to serve his community, Denburk has channelled his ability and considerable energy as a star basketball player at McGill into the sports programs that anchor the Montreal Community Cares Foundation.

During our conversation, I asked Denburk to explain the source of his internal drive.

“It’s because my family and I had to work hard for every little bit of progress we made as a family; and for myself. My mom and my five siblings came to Montreal from Jamaica when I was five years old. We lived with my aunt and uncle in a one-bedroom apartment in Little Burgundy. There were nine of us, and we literally took turns rotating between a pullout couch in the living room, and mattress on the floor in the bedroom.”

“My mom wasn’t allowed to stay in Canada, and had to return to Jamaica. My grandparents adopted us so that we could stay in Canada, and with that, my aunts and uncles became my sisters and brothers. My grandfather was an early mentor. He helped everybody and was very well-respected in the community.”

“I was good at sports and excelled at basketball. I played all through high school and at Dawson College. While at Dawson, I tried out for the Quebec Provincial Basketball Team, and I was the last guy to be cut by Coach Nevio Martinado who would become the coach of the McGill Redmen (now called McGill Redbirds). That really bothered me, but I set my sights on accepting a scholarship to a university in the U.S. Then in late August, Coach came to our house to talk to me about playing for McGill. When I asked him why he cut me from the provincial team, he said; ‘Denburk, I made a mistake and I apologize.” I said that I’ll come, and mostly to prove him wrong.”

At 5’7”, Denburk was not a prototypical basketball player. “I wasn’t tall – but I was an explosive player and could jump very high.” Denburk went on the play for McGill for five seasons while he studied Economics and Management. Denburk remains the all-time leading scorer for McGill Men’s Basketball, and in 2016, he was inducted into the McGill Sports Hall of Fame.

“Community sports allowed me to step out of my neighbourhood.”

“While I was playing for McGill, I’d visit the local courts and give out tickets to kids in the neighbourhood so that they could see the gymnasium and see what a cool place the university was.”

Denburk Reid

Denburk’s experience as a player, coach and Community Relations for The Alouettes, and Loyola High School prepared him for the Montreal Community Cares Foundation 
Photo: Tom Reynolds

Coach Martinado proved to be an excellent mentor for Denburk. His grandparents wanted to retire to Jamaica, but stayed in Montreal for another three years to enable Denburk to complete his studies. Coach Martinado kept an eye out for Denburk. After graduating from McGill with excellent grades, he obtained his Masters degree in Educational Leadership at Concordia.

“Sports enabled me to step out of my neighbourhood, and kept me away from the gangs. Many of the guys I grew up with are either incarcerated or dead.”

“Growing up, I was lucky enough to have met several amazing coach‐mentors who took me under their wings. They didn’t just teach me about sports – they taught me how to live a meaningful life. They guided me and kept me focused and out of trouble.”

“Travelling to tournaments expanded my world and my vision of what was possible in life. I became hooked… on basketball, on learning, on being the best I could be, on the incredible power of mentoring and on giving back to the community.”

While there was no shortage of opportunities to go down a different road, Denburk’s coach-mentors helped him make positive choices.

Denburk served as an Assistant Coach for the McGill men’s basketball team, before moving on to head up the Montreal Alouettes Community Relations department, followed by five years as the Director of Community Relations at Loyola High School.

With the assistance of a successful mentor, Denburk established a training organization called High Point Athletics. “I came to realize that we weren’t providing life-skills for the young people in the program. We weren’t equipping them with the skills they’d need when their days as an athlete were over. I wanted to offer more.”

In 2006 Denburk created the Red Rush Basketball Program, followed in 2014 by the Lady Rush Basketball Program.

R = Reach youth through basketball

U = Uplift the community by uplifting youth

S = Share the wins and inspire others

H = Help those in need and inspire others by giving back to the community

As stated on the website: Basketball is the magnet that leads to Financial Literacy, Scholarship Programs, Junior CEO Program (Concordia), After school Tutoring and Internship Programs.  

Denburk Reid – by the numbers

Denburk Reid was born May 21, 1979 in Manchester, Jamaica, and raised in Montreal. He graduated from McGill in 2005 with a BA, majoring in economics and management. Known as “Burky” he starred for five seasons with the basketball Redmen, serving the last three as a co-captain, then spent five years as an assistant coach with the team.

A five-time Quebec conference all-star and three-time recipient of the Dr. Ross Hill Trophy as team MVP, the 5-foot-7, 148-pound point-guard merited tournament all-star honours 11 times.

Reid became the team’s all-time leading scorer with 2,224 points in 143 contests for an average of 15.6 points per game. He also established school records for most career assists (551) and steals (302).

He shot 44.3 per cent from the field, 33.9 from 3-point range and 77.5 from the free-throw line. Reid reached the 30-point plateau five times, including a personal best of 37 points twice (vs. Toronto, Dec. 29/04 and Laval, Feb. 11/05).

He earned the Richard Pound Award in his final year for proficiency and leadership in McGill athletics. In 2013, he was among the inaugural inductees to the McGill Basketball Wall of Honour.

After leaving a funeral service for a friend and musician Bad News Brown, Denburk noted; “I was angry… that the nice things people were saying happened when the person was dead. I thought we should celebrate a community leader while they were alive! Three months later we hosted the first Montreal Community Cares Gala at the Crowley Centre.”

What started as an annual recognition ceremony grew in 2012 to be the Montreal Community Cares Foundation.

Over the past 22 years, Denburk has personally mentored more than 100 teenagers.

Denburk is also the driving force behind the Montreal Community Cares Foundation, the Red Rush/Lady Rush Basketball Leadership program and the Montreal Community Cares Awards (an initiative that recognizes individuals, adults and youths), community organizations and businesses actively engaged and making a difference in the Greater Montreal Area. These community engagement initiatives also continues to grow.

Denburk Reid’s vision is to inspire and empower all Montrealers, in particular youth, to make a difference by getting involved and giving back to their communities. It’s a vision that fuels his tireless passion for helping others.

To learn more about Montreal Community Cares, please visit: www.montrealcommunitycares.com