Posts in Sheldon Kennedy

To know better is to do better

December 23rd, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

By: Sheldon Kennedy

After reading “A Stain on our Game” by Jeff Hamilton, I felt that I needed and wanted to share my views on the six-part article. I feel strongly that this story has critical teachings in it from which we all can learn.

What really hit close to home for me, again, was Jay Macaulay. I saw myself and so many others who have suffered significant trauma in their lives in Jay. I was there, and I was there for a long time, and it’s brutal. The important part, which I know now, is that there is a way out, and the opportunity to get your power and your life back.

Jay, you are not alone with your feelings; with hard work and continued commitment, recovery is possible for all of us.

Piecing this story together was so important, as it allows us to really understand the magnitude of how one pedophile can destroy the lives of so many victims. It also reveals how many knew and said nothing, and how there were countless missed opportunities to have stopped it. (And for clarification, throughout the series interviewees refer to Graham James as being “gay.” That is not accurate; he is a sexual predator, and the two terms should not be confused.)

The impact on our youth is undeniable. The research tells us that, and unfortunately, I have come to know this all too well:

  • kids who are abused are 26 times more likely to experience youth homelessness
  • kids who are abused have a 30 per cent higher high school drop-out rate
  • 70 to 80 per cent of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use
  • children who have been abused are 59 per cent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile
  • people who have suffered abuse are 15 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 70 per cent of all mental health issues are linked to early childhood trauma

 

I didn’t come away with the feeling that these articles were written to finger-point or blame; to me, this series presents yet another opportunity to reflect, learn and improve. It’s also crystal clear that this is not just a hockey issue but a community issue, and we all have a personal responsibility to be better.

Graham James took advantage of our collective ignorance and indifference, plain and simple. That’s why education is the best defence to empower the bystander. I remember the common responses when my story broke: “This is an isolated case… and it’s a hockey issue.” Neither is true.

All this said, upon reflection, I do know that sport organizations have taken some bold steps forward over the last 20-plus years. It should be acknowledged that Hockey Canada was the first organization in this country, and perhaps the world, to introduce mandatory training for all coaches specific to the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

Sport Manitoba was the first provincial sport organization to mandate education for all coaches in the province in all sports. Through my involvement with these initiatives, I realize just how bold those decisions were in the face of denial.

It also very apparent to me that because of hockey’s position and stature in our country, we need it to set an even greater example for others to follow. That is a very influential leadership position to be in.

At this point, I’d like to thank all the investigators who took on these cases and believed in us and fought for the truth. In my case, Det. Brian Bell — you saved my life.

I also want to acknowledge all the survivors in this story and beyond — your courage and honesty further inspires me. And to my family and friends: I know that the impact on you has been significant.

I want to thank Darren McLean and Rick Girard, two young players who, showing courage and maturity beyond their years, fought to remove Graham James as a coach to protect current and future players. Thanks also to Dr. Gretchen Kerr and Dr. Sandra Kirby for their continued research that validates that these issues are real and widespread.

Thank you for every voice in this story. It was very important, and I heard every one, whether I wanted to or not. It further drove home the need to put our focus on the 98 per cent of people who  are good, and give them tools and confidence to be better.

Stories like these take courage and great diligence. I am grateful for the commitment shown by Jeff Hamilton, the Winnipeg Free Press and all those involved. Reading this has helped me greatly, and I thank you for that.

There are, however, still two questions I would like answered: is Ed Chynoweth a suitable member of the Hockey Hall of Fame? And is it appropriate to have his name attached to the WHL Championship?

To know better is to do better.

Our co-founder, Sheldon Kennedy, has spent the last 24 years advocating for child protection and has influenced social change in a profound way. He has received extensive recognition for this work, including the Alberta Order of Excellence, the Order of Sport Award, the Order of Manitoba and the Order of Canada.

sport hockey arena

‘A Stain on Our Game’ Summary

December 21st, 2020 General News, Sheldon Kennedy

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a series of articles by Jeff Hamilton entitled ‘A Stain on Our Game’, an investigation into convicted serial sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James. This series explores the lasting impact of his years of abuse on the Canadian hockey community and more importantly, on those who were victimized by him. Hamilton’s research shed a light on the factors that allowed the widespread abuse to occur, the lifelong impacts on the survivors of James’ abuse, and what sport organizations across Canada have done and must continue to do to prevent maltreatment and abuse from occurring in sport moving forward.

Lessons Learned:

Understanding and Defining Abuse & Maltreatment

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s Universal Code of Conduct (2019) defines maltreatment as, “Volitional acts that result in harm or the potential for physical or psychological harm”. When maltreatment occurs repeatedly over time, a pattern of abuse is formed. Abuse can be psychological, physical, or sexual, but psychological abuse is the most widespread and at the root of any and all other types of abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Any type of maltreatment or abuse is rooted in an imbalance of power.

As Hamilton clearly detailed, Graham James groomed young players, who often came from vulnerable or challenging family circumstances, and wielded power over them by isolating them from their peers, using the hypermasculine culture of hockey to disempower them to speak out, and using his influence to control the future of their hockey careers. Further, a win-at-all-costs mentality and the success of James’ teams meant that those who wanted to speak out feared they would not be believed or that they would face backlash. When Darren McLean, Rick Girard, and other veteran players spoke to team management about the abuse their teammates were experiencing, McLean was instead the one punished and asked to leave the team, while James was allowed to continue coaching and abusing his players (Hamilton, 2020).

Emotional Maltreatment is Equally Harmful and More Prevalent Than Other Forms

While many survivors detailed the grooming and sexual abuse they experienced, weaved throughout their and others’ accounts was a clear pattern of emotional maltreatment and abuse. Emotional maltreatment and psychological abuse is the most common type of maltreatment experienced by young athletes, and can have equally devastating impacts as other forms of abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Psychological abuse, in comparison to physical or sexual abuse, is most strongly associated with athletes experiencing post-traumatic and dissociative symptoms (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Further, psychologically abusive coaching practices can both hide and lead to grooming behaviours and sexual abuse (Mountjoy et al., 2016).

Hazing is a Longstanding Problem in Hockey with Serious, Lasting Impacts

Hazing in hockey is a longstanding problem and is currently an issue before the courts, with several former Canadian Hockey League players leading a class-action lawsuit against the CHL and its three member organizations, the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL (Hamilton, 2020). At the core of this lawsuit is the claim that the organizations have perpetuated a ‘toxic environment’ in which widespread abuse and maltreatment, from both adults and peers, is widespread and accepted (Hamilton, 2020).

Hazing is defined as any harmful interaction that involves some component of psychological, sexual, and/or physical abuse (Jeckell et al., 2018). The willingness of the victim to participate has no bearing on whether an activity can be considered hazing or not; if there is any component of harm for the victim, the activity can be considered hazing (Jeckell et al., 2018). Hazing activities have the potential to lead to extremely dangerous physical and psychological outcomes, including death (Jeckell et al., 2018). Though hazing is often viewed as ‘harmless’ and ‘team-building’, it instead has the opposite effect, reinforcing existing power structures and hierarchy amongst team members, creating more division and a lack of unity (Jeckell et al., 2018).

The Effects of Trauma are Widespread and Long-Term

Many survivors of abuse can and do go on to experience positive mental health and well-being, return to sport, and resume their regular lives and activities (Mountjoy et al., 2016). However, as Hamilton (2020) clearly showed through his interviews, the short- and long-term impacts of abuse in sport can be extremely damaging to athletes, extending beyond sport and the athletes themselves to affect their families, friends, and other areas of their lives, long after the athlete has left the sport (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Athletes suffer many opportunity costs within sport, including the loss of sponsorship, poor performance, reduced chances to win at high levels, willingness to engage in doping or cheating, or leaving sport altogether (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Outside of sport, the impacts include (but are not limited to) psychosomatic illnesses, disordered eating, low self-esteem, poor body image, anxiety, depression, substance misuse, self-harm, and suicide (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Further, the risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts or attempts, or completed suicide is increased with each type of abuse that a young person experiences (Mountjoy et al., 2016).

Parents Are Essential Stakeholders in Keeping Young Athletes Safe & Sport Organizations Accountable

Parents are their children’s first and most important advocates and are powerful stakeholders in sport culture. Parents are in an important position as bystanders to call attention to inappropriate behaviour and to step in when maltreatment occurs. Parents, as much as other adults involved in sport organizations, should also receive the education and tools to recognize and address bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination, or BAHD behaviours. Further, parents are an important stakeholder within sport organizations to call for culture change, moving away from a focus on developing the few elite-level athletes and towards developing all young athletes as both better players and humans (Hamilton, 2020).

Education is Crucial for Empowering Bystanders to Address Incidents of Maltreatment

Organizational and cultural change starts with leadership. The first step in the process of systemic culture change is to be aware of and understand that maltreatment and abuse occurs everywhere, including in sporting organizations, and that the consequences are serious and long-lasting (Mountjoy et al., 2016). A key building block in this process is education at all levels of sport organizations (Mountjoy et al., 2016). According to Mountjoy et al. (2016), “Prevention begins with awareness-raising about non-accidental violence through the dissemination of evidence-based education and training programs.”

Bystanders are in a crucial position to disrupt patterns of maltreatment and abuse in sport environments. Further, if they do not intervene, they become part of the problem; when bystanders who witness or are aware of the abusive behaviour do nothing, either through acceptance of the behaviour, non-intervention, denial or silence, athletes believe that the behaviour is acceptable and that they would be powerless if they chose to speak out (Mountjoy et al., 2016). Bystanders can be anyone involved in a sport organization, including athletes. In fact, educating youth involved in sports from a young age on the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviours can help them to recognize when maltreatment is occurring and empower them to stand up for themselves and their peers.

 

Resources

More information about supporting individuals who are experiencing or have experienced abuse can be found below:

Sport-Specific Resources:

 

Mental Health & Maltreatment Resources:

  • A full list of resources available in each province and territory for survivors of abuse can be found on the Ending Violence Association of Canada’s website
  • Free mental health support is currently available across Canada through the Wellness Together Canada website
  • For immediate crisis support, adults can text WELLNESS to 741741 and youth can text WELLNESS to 686868
  • The Canadian Centre for Victims of Crime has a helpful list of resources for individuals who have experienced maltreatment and are in need of support

 

Prevention Resources

The first step towards prevention is education. Learn more about our online programs here:

The Respect in Sport Parent Program provides parents with the tools to create and maintain Safe Sport environments.

The Respect in Sport Activity Leader educates youth leaders, coaches, officials and participants (14-years and up) to recognize, understand and respond to issues of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD).

  • Educating our youth: Stay in the Game program

The Stay in the Game program is designed to educate youth 10 -14 years old on three key themes; finding your voice, staying safe and having fun.

Tools, tips and research summaries to discover:

 

References:

Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. (2019). Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address
Maltreatment in Sport. Retrieved from
https://mcusercontent.com/95de45c23ac490c5d391e924f/files/7cc4ba0b-7565-43bf-aa4c-
c5be146e7d97/UCCMS_v5.1_FINAL_Eng.pdf

Hamilton, J. (2020, December). A stain on our game: The life and destructive legacy of Graham James. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/graham-james/

Jeckell, A. S., Copenhaver, E. A., & Diamond, A. B. (2018). The spectrum of hazing and peer sexual abuse in sports: A current perspective. Sports health, 10(6), 558-564.

Mountjoy, M., Brackenridge, C., Arrington, M., Blauwet, C., Carska-Sheppard, A., Fasting, K., … & Starr, K. (2016). International Olympic Committee consensus statement: harassment and abuse (non-accidental violence) in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(17), 1019-1029.

 

Sheldon Kennedy on combating bullying within the hockey community – Sportsnet

October 28th, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

Our Co-founder and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy joined Scott from Sportsnet to discuss bullying and other major issues within the Hockey community and what can be done to combat that.

Interview with Sportsnet: Sheldon Kennedy on combating bullying within the hockey community

 

resilience panel

Mental Health Resilience Panel Discussion

October 13th, 2020 Panel, Sheldon Kennedy

On September 28, 2020, our co-founder Sheldon Kennedy participated in a panel discussion on resilience and facing adversity in sport, presented in partnership with Sport Calgary and headversity. Moderated by two-time Olympic champion and Sport Calgary President & CEO Catriona Le May Doan, other panellists included psychiatrist and headversity co-founder Dr. Ryan Todd, as well as Ryan Straschnitzki and Tyler Smith, two young athletes who survived the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018.

 

Mental Health Resilience Panel Discussion – Sport Calgary

The panellists discussed their personal and professional understandings of resilience, which can be understood as the readiness to face adversity. Research from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on youth athletic development recognizes the importance of developing resilience in young athletes. Psychological stress alone can have both training and straining effects on young athletes; for example, feeling anxious or nervous about an upcoming tournament or competition can be a healthy and normal reaction (Bergeron et al., 2015). However, excessive psychological stress can quickly turn into psychological overload, which can result in young athletes experiencing burnout or leaving sport altogether (Bergeron et al., 2015). Parents and coaches have an important role to play in preventing psychological overload by setting realistic expectations, sharing criticism in constructive and developmentally-appropriate ways, and using training approaches that put the athlete’s well-being first (Bergeron et al., 2015). In addition, parents can play an important role in preventing dysfunctional or destructive responses in young athletes, such as perfectionistic tendencies (Bergeron et al., 2015). This can help young athletes understand that teamwork, having fun, and doing their best are all more important than perfect athletic performances (Bergeron et al., 2015).

This may be especially important for athletes competing in sport as teenagers, a sensitive time period for both physical and psychological development (Bergeron et al., 2015). Coaches and parents can support young athletes in building resilience skills through the teaching of coping techniques, such as goal setting, to help reduce normal fears and anxieties, such as a fear of failure (Bergeron et al., 2015). It is also important to match the level of support and types of coping tools with the level of competition and athletic achievement expected of young athletes (Bergeron et al., 2015).

Coaches should work to create an autonomy-supportive, mastery-oriented sporting climate, where young athletes are encouraged to recognize and understand their own goals and limits (Bergeron et al., 2015). Coaches should seek to build the four Cs- Competence, Confidence, Connection, and Character- in young athletes, by establishing positive training and competitive environments and focusing on the individual needs and long-term goals for performance, participation, and personal development of young athletes (Bergeron et al., 2015). Research has shown that these types of sporting climates result in less stress for young athletes and build more intrinsic motivation, both of which are important tools for building resilience (Bergeron et al., 2015).

We were so inspired to learn from the expertise of each of these panellists, and are thankful to Sport Calgary and headversity for recognizing the importance of having open, authentic conversations about mental health, trauma, and resilience in sport. You can learn more about the panel here.

References:

Bergeron, M. F., Mountjoy, M., Armstrong, N., Chia, M., Côté, J., Emery, C. A., … & Malina, R. M. (2015). International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(13), 843-851.

Respect in Sport for Activity Leaders Webinar

August 5th, 2020 Activity Leaders, Respect in Sport, Sheldon Kennedy

Join our co-founder Sheldon Kennedy and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association for this free, online orientation event!

In this webinar, you will learn all about the Respect in Sport for Activity Leaders, an online certification program designed to provide SPRA members a useful tool to recognize and prevent bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

Program Elements include:
-Power Dynamics
-Legal Responsibility and “Duty of Care”
-Hazing
-Physical Development
-Preventing Bullying, Abuse, Harassment and Discrimination (BAHD)
-Mental Health Outcomes Due to BAHD Behaviours
-Concussion and Injury Management
-Positive Emotions

Access to the program will become available to SPRA members at a reduced rate after this introductory webinar.

There is no cost to attend.

Register Here

Sheldon Kennedy announced as part of Manitoba Sport Hall of Fame Class of 2020

July 31st, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

July 29, 2020 – Winnipeg, MB – The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame announced the class of 2020 today, revealing the eight individuals and one team mini-dynasty who will be inducted into our hallowed halls this year.

The individual inductees are:

  • Marilyn Fraser (Builder) – Athletics
  • Baxter Humby (Athlete) – Muay Thai/Kickboxing
  • Sheldon Kennedy (Athlete/Builder) – Hockey/Multi-Sport
  • Ruth Klassen (Athlete) – Volleyball
  • Ralph Lyndon (Athlete) – Multi-Sport
  • Paul Robson (Builder) – Multi-Sport
  • Jennifer Saunders (Athlete) – Racquetball
  • Ed Werenich (Athlete) – Curling

 

The team inductees are:

  • 1996/1997 University of Manitoba Bisons (Team) – Basketball

 

Click here to read the inductees Bio

The Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame will not be hosting our annual Induction Ceremonies this year, but instead will formally induct the new class of honoured members when COVID-19 conditions allow us to host such a celebration.

_________________________

“As we announce the names of these deserving inductees who will forever be a part of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, we are grateful that these athletes, builders and teams will inspire and motivate generations for years to come, and we are excited to be celebrating their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions to sport in our province. Congratulations to the inductee class of 2020! ”   Jeff Hnatiuk , President & CEO, Sport Manitoba

“Once again, this is a remarkable class of inductees that reflects the diverse spectrum of sport. They personify the kind of commitment and excellence that our sport community aspires to and is inspired by, and we are thrilled to have them join the ranks of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. It is especially important to take the time to reflect on and celebrate our sport heritage during today’s trying times.”   Don MacDonald , Chair of the Board of Directors, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame

About 

A program of Sport Manitoba, the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame’s mandate is to collect, preserve, showcase and celebrate the history and heritage of sport excellence in Manitoba. For more information, please visit their website.

Sport Manitoba is a not-for-profit organization and the lead planning, programming and funding agency for the development of amateur sport in Manitoba. Located at 145 Pacific Avenue in Winnipeg, Sport Manitoba partners with over 100 organizations to deliver sport in the province and is responsible for programs including the  Manitoba Games powered by Manitoba Hydro, Sport Manitoba Coaching, Team Manitoba, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, Fit Kids Healthy Kids, and KidSport. Services provided include the  Sport Manitoba Clinic, Sport Manitoba Performance, Sport Manitoba Fitness Center, and the Paul Robson Resource Center for Leadership and Coaching.

Source: http://www.sportmanitoba.ca

Podcast with Sheldon Kennedy – The Boiling Point

July 28th, 2020 Respect in the Workplace, Sheldon Kennedy

This podcast features a powerful conversation between Dave Veale, Dr. Bill Howatt and Sheldon Kennedy. Thank you to The Boiling Point for this great opportunity!

PODCAST: TIME TO STOP BULLYING WITH RESPECT IN THE WORKPLACE

“Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player and long time advocate of Respect in the Workplace and Respect in Sport, shares his journey helping to educate people and build awareness.

Having Sheldon Kennedy join us for an episode of Shifting the Employee Experience helped us to solidify a point we’ve been hearing throughout this partnership project, which is that in order to start prioritizing #mentalhealth and #mentalwellbeing in the workplace, we need to start talking.

Sheldon and his work with Respect Group have shown what can happen when we all start speaking out about our experiences and start to have these sometimes difficult conversations. Make sure you listen to his episode to hear even more about steps you can take along your path to Shift the Employee Experience.”

Click here to listen to this amazing podcast.

About The Boiling Point Podcast:

“Hosted by Greg & Dave, these thought-provoking interviews with entrepreneurs, thought leaders and movement makers revolve around the experiences and the moments that shaped their careers. Get inspired by these adventurous business leaders who are doing good, being sustainable, achieving work-life balance, promoting a healthy lifestyle and more. Get great advice on the next steps you can take in your business, career and life. Our show – a “must listen podcast” according to Workopolis and the Dragon’s Den – is meant to inform and spark positive change in business and the world.”

Sheldon Kennedy statement on receiving the Order of Sport award 2020

May 27th, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

For Release May 27, 2020 at 9 AM MT

CALGARY, May 27, 2020 – Respect Group congratulates our Co-Founder, Sheldon Kennedy on receiving the Order of Sport award 2020. “We are forever proud of Sheldon’s tireless crusade to prevent maltreatment in sport” said Wayne McNeil, Co-Founder of Respect Group, “This award is a great acknowledgement of that incredible contribution.”

Please read below for Sheldon’s statement.

_______________________________________________________________

First off, I’d like to congratulate all inductees this year, and in the past, for their significant contributions to our country through sport.

I was truly shocked and humbled when I received the call stating that I had been selected to become a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.  Who would have thunk! I immediately wanted to accept this honour on behalf of all who have helped, and continue to help, make a difference in the areas so important to me personally and society as a whole.  Be it progressive sport leaders or our incredible team at Respect Group, I have not done this alone.

This induction tells Canada and the world that child protection and keeping sport safe and welcoming for all those who participate is a priority. Together, through passionate leadership and understanding, we have made sport a better place and, after 23 years, we continue to move that bar.

Thank you, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, for recognizing my efforts. On behalf of myself and my family I am sincerely grateful!

 

 

 

 

Sheldon Kennedy  CM AOE OM

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About Respect Group Inc.

Respect Group (www.respectgroupinc.com) was incorporated in 2004 by co-founders, Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil, to pursue their common passion: the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). Respect Group is made up of a team of over 30 talented individuals whose passion is to create a global culture of Respect. As Canada’s leading on-line provider of prevention education related to BAHD, Respect Group has certified over 1.3 Million Canadians involved in sport, schools and the workplace.

For any inquiries please contact Sheldon.info@respectgroupinc.com

Podcast with Sheldon Kennedy – Beyond the Checkbox

March 11th, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

This podcast features a powerful conversation between Dr. Ryan Todd and Sheldon Kennedy. Thank you to Headversity for this great opportunity! Click here to watch it:

“Sheldon Kennedy is a former NHL player and has led numerous initiatives that have advocated for children and victims of abuse. Most recently he’s founded the Respect Group, which has certified over 1.3 Million people in workplaces across Canada in bullying, harassment, and discrimination training. On this episode, Sheldon shares his remarkable story as an abuse victim and how these experiences have shaped his life, including the revelation where he discovered he was responsible for his mental health.” -Dr. Ryan Todd

Sheldon Kennedy statement on receiving the Order of Hockey In Canada 2020

February 13th, 2020 Sheldon Kennedy

“Upon reflection of receiving the Order of Hockey in Canada, I sincerely feel that this award represents far more than just “Sheldon” accomplishments. This recognition, is clearly for an amazing Team Effort.

First off, my good friend of 23 years and business partner, Wayne McNeil, deserves as much credit as I do for sharing, and delivering on, our common vision. For the 10’s of thousands of disclosure letters I have received since 1997, after my story broke, my gratitude to each of you for baring your souls and for your courage. Your words reminded me that this is not an isolated issue and kept me going!

Thank you to Hockey Canada for your leadership in making Speak Out mandatory in 1997 for all coaches. In my mind, a bold step and the REAL beginning of the Safe Sport Movement in Canada, and, perhaps the world! And to all of the proactive sport leaders who have taken their own bold steps to make RESPECT education a requirement. You have created a sport environment that values child protection as priority one. Not a button or a poster, but the real deal. Of course, there is more to be done and there always will be.

But let’s pause for a moment, accept this award together, and commit to continuing this unique collaboration to keep Canadian kids safe and respected while they enjoy the wonderment of sport!”

SHELDON KENNEDY

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