Yvon Deschamps and Judi Richards want to ‘go in peace’

The apple never falls far from the tree. In the case of the Deschamps-Richards family, this maxim could not be better applied. The generosity that Yvon and Judi have shown for more than half a century is a value that is passed down from generation to generation.

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Last August 31st we went to the official inauguration of the Center Yvon Deschamps, formerly known as the Association sportive et communautaire du Centre-Sud. He accepted this honor after 37 years of service. “This center is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life,” he says. In the year before the pandemic, there were 400,000 entries! Imagine that meets a need!”

The association was founded in 1974 by Gaëtan Forcillo. Yvon recalls, “50 years ago, the Centre-Sud neighborhood was one of the poorest in Canada. There were shooting galleries and prostitutes on every street corner. Parents stood up and said that there was no point in picking up syringes from the floor every day. Originally, the idea was to get kids off the streets and give them gear to play hockey in the winter and baseball in the summer. It was a long time ago…


Since then, the face of the district has changed and the center has experienced an expansion that nobody would have dared to dream of. Yvon continues: “It started very quietly and today there are sports teams for all age groups. Youngsters can play all kinds of individual and team sports, including fencing!” Many other activities have been added over the years: “They can take drawing and language classes… We even have software that allows them to invent their own video games! In all, the Center Yvon Deschamps offers over 100 courses, including a dozen to promote academic perseverance. Judi explains: “We have a homework helper that is very popular. We welcome 400 young people a week. The couple agree: “The young people of the district feel they belong here. They are loved and cared for.” They like it so much that 70% of them visit.

The center has become a great place for social integration. “Today, children of Bill 101 or newcomers make up a third of the population,” adds Yvon. The center offers parents a place where they suddenly become part of a community. Instead of staying isolated at home, they come with their children and integrate faster into society.”

Over the years, the center has added more services so that today it consists of several buildings totaling 100,000 square feet and is equipped with modern equipment. As an example, Yvon cites the library, which he is very proud of: “It’s huge and makes children want to go home with books. Parents had never seen that!” On the day we cut the red ribbon at the Center Yvon Deschamps, we also went to the inauguration of the Piscine D’Amours, so named to thank the family for generously contributing modernization of the institution’s water recreation facilities. “Young people can even drive down there in a wheelchair!” Judi is happy.


The achievements of the center are numerous and several projects are currently being implemented, including the culinary training workshop and the Maison de la musique.

Since its beginnings in 1974, the center has gained a credibility that allows it to raise awareness among key donors. Yvon gives an eloquent example: “Our president, Gaëtan Forcillo, showed the center to potential donors. At the end of the visit, the Lord said to her, “First we thought of giving you $5,000. Halfway through the visit we thought we were making $50,000. At the end of the day, we’ll give you half a million.”


Yvon and Judi have been involved in the organization since 1985. Then, in 2014, the Yvon Deschamps Centre-Sud Foundation was created, whose mission is to improve the situation of young people in the neighborhood by supporting the programs offered by the association. We’re talking about a family affair here! Judi is the vice-president of the foundation and her daughter Sarah-Émilie is the administrator. Both are also speakers, while little Alba Santos-Deschamps, daughter of Karine, whom we saw in the musical this summer Anneis youth spokesman.

Photo: Patrick Seguin

Judi is formal: “We will be there for life and hope that little Deschamps will be around for a long time to come. Because when Yvon and I are gone, who’s going to take care of the kids? she wonders, alluding to the young people who attend the center. Yvon adds: “At some point you wake up and realize that our biggest donors are 90 years old.

I’m 87 and we won’t be here for the next 25 years. This is where the idea for the foundation came from. We wanted to prepare something for the day when we won’t be here. So we will go in peace.”

The couple has always worked with heart and conviction for humanitarian and social causes. From 1970, Yvon was employed by Oxfam before he and Judi joined Le Chaînon for 30 years. And there were others, including Le Défi sportif. Born in working-class Saint-Henri and with a strong community spirit, Yvon has always found it natural to share and give back. “We’re short of money,” he explains with his sense of image. Judi agrees: “It’s true: we have a bad mentality. We don’t spend in vain. From time to time we go a little crazy, but generally no… For example, we cut the tubes of toothpaste and wash them before sending them for recycling. We are aware that we are privileged and so are our children.

Her three daughters Annie, Karine and Sarah-Émilie can look forward to it. Her father argues, “Our kids fell for it as babies. From birth, they accompanied us to Le Chaînon on New Year’s Day. They were involved in the Bazar du Chaînon by making and selling things. They grew up in that environment and it’s part of them.

Photo: Eric Myre


Yvon announced his retirement in 2010 and last March he simply withdrew from public life. So we will only see the 87-year-old artist again in the context of activities related to the foundation and center that bear his name. In addition, at the end of summer 2021, he had suffered a serious fall on one of the stairs of the family chalet; he had broken a few ribs among other injuries. Today he is very well.

The couple is currently repainting their condo in town. “It’s a mess! Judi yells. All the furniture is in the middle of the room. We sell or give away almost everything. We switch colors and want to strip.” Anyway, the only thing that really matters, Judi Richards and Yvon Deschamps have had it since the day they met.

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