Project North is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of Inuit families living in remote Arctic communities through sport and education. Nine years ago, I co-founded Project North with my friend Joan Weinman. It was going to be a one-time used equipment drive delivering hockey gear to four Nunavut communities with help from Adventure Canada and First Air. I am very proud to announce that nine years later, we have reached ONE MILLION dollars of hockey and sporting equipment deliveries to over 26 communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories.
The planning and preparing for the Project North 3.0 Stanley Cup tour began months in advance. Each of our trips is a huge undertaking and involves a broad mix of donors, sponsors, VIPs and Project North personnel to pull it all together. As usual we had an amazing, passionate team who worked tirelessly to make it all happen.
Trip 3.0 was going to be massive. The proposed Nunavut route was over 8,300 km with eight community visits. Gifts this year included 150 bags of new hockey bags, 150 Rumie tablets and 30 Nikon Coolpix cameras. The impressive VIP list comprised of Stanley Cup champion and hockey great Lanny McDonald, CWHL Fury player and Olympic gold medalist Natalie Spooner and Juno award-winning Inuk singer/songwriter, Susan Aglukark.
This trip included a surprise visit to the high school in Iqaluit, followed by a community free skate at the arena. An outdoor event during a light snow fall took place in Cape Dorset.
In Kugaaruk, Lanny and Natalie were driven to the community centre in a qamutiq (Inuit sled) pulled by a snowmobile. We had a wonderful visit with the community delivering 100 Rumie tablets, Nikon Coolpix cameras and 25 hockey bags. The timing of our visit could not have been better as the community lost their school to fire just weeks before our arrival. another sign that this trip was meant to be.
We had a community event in Taloyoak followed by a surprise morning visit to the elementary school. Gjoa Haven graced us with a beautiful cultural performance, including young dancers jigging to a live band. In Resolute Bay, Susan gave a powerful performance followed by young girls throat singing, which was a phenomenal presentation for us. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit Hall Beach and Qikitarjuaq because of inclement weather. This is not unusual in the North where the weather rules. We ended with a city tour in Iqaluit and visit to the Inukpak Outfitting dog sleds, which delighted us all. Hall Beach and Qikitarjuaq received their equipment at a later date.
Community members smiled with joy and shed some tears when they touched the Stanley Cup and had their photos taken with hockey greats Lanny and Natalie. The joy warmed my heart, even though it was below -25C! The happiness and excitement resonated from community to community. They were grateful for the gifts of equipment and delighted by our visiting VIPs. When Susan sang Amazing Grace acapella, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Susan is from Arviat, Nunavut. When she spoke to the communities in Inuktitut, it connected us all.
I have seen first-hand the impact of Project North, but I am always thrilled to hear from the communities themselves.
Jared Ottenhof wrote on my Facebook page: Living in a community that benefitted from this program I have seen its direct impact. We doubled our minor hockey registration last year because kids who are die-hard hockey fans who otherwise would not have been able to play, were given the chance to play. It made an immediate and huge impact on Kugluktuk. Thanks!
Scotiabank and First Air has supported Project North since the very beginning. Together with Canadian Tire Jump Start Program, NHL and Rogers Sportsnet, Project North has continued to make a difference in the lives of our northern families.
As President of Project North, I am extremely proud of our 3.0 trip. Project North has taught me that if you believe, work hard and commit, you can make anything happen, including turning a dream into reality.