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An extravaganza of community spirit

Yellowknife Canada Day.

January/February 2011 | by David Malcolm
Each summer, on July 1st, Yellowknifers join fellow Canadians in a surge of patriotism. There, the focal point for the day is the annual Canada Day Parade, organized by the local Rotary Club. Rotarians stand on street corners giving away Canadian flags and pins while people crowd the sidewalks to watch an extravaganza of community spirit make its way down the main street, Franklin Avenue. The RCMP marches by in their patriotic red serge, followed by the NWT Pipe Band. There are kids on gaily-decorated bikes, people with dogs and mascots of various kinds. MLAs wave from cars and a giant coffee cup wobbles its way down the street. And then the floats, colourful, musical and representing a myriad of clubs and organizations in Yellowknife.

The Canada Day Parade is only one of the activities of the busy club. Yellowknife’s Rotary 64 members are part of the 1.3 million members belonging to some 33,000 clubs around the world. Like its counterparts everywhere, the club lives by its motto “service above self”. Many of the Rotary’s programs are specifically aimed to helping youth. For example, the Kids Ahead snack program, provides nutritious snacks to Grade 1 students in some local schools, providing more than 1,800 nutritious snacks to youngsters. Reading Buddies pairs adults with Grade 1 youngsters for 30 minutes of reading each week. The Northern Experience youth exchange program brings students from Rotary Clubs in southern Canada to Yellowknife during the annual Caribou Carnival to experience the unique environment, culture, government and people through activities such as dog sledding, learning winter survival skills, mine tours and cultural tours.

Projects are often carried out in partnership with other local organizations or businesses. Each year, Yellowknife’s radio station CJCD, donates one radio day to the Rotary Club. Rotarians act as DJs and ad managers for the day and Rotary gets the revenue for its community service project. These may include the Rotary Centennial Park, which the Club has developed and maintained on the shore of the Great Slave Lake, the provision of free dictionaries to Grade 3 students, the clean up of the Yellow – knife Cemetery or a myriad of other initiatives. Yellowknife Rotarians are also active on the international level, whether its donating time to PolioPlus, the international Rotary initiative to eradicate polio from the face of the earth or supporting the Belize Literary Program which provides professional development to teachers in that country. Rotary has helped raise money to purchase and outfit an ambulance for the city of Obregon in Mexico.

The Club has worked with the Wheelchair Foundation to take wheelchairs by the container load to two cities in Mexico, has donated shoes and baseball mitts to a Mexican foster home and helped a young girl who couldn’t walk or communicate get the surgery so that she can now walk with a walker and speak.

In view of all these activities, Kim Poulter, President of Yellowknife Rotary for 2009-2010 offers this praise of her fellow Rotarians and Club partners: “They have gone way beyond the call of duty to encourage peace around the world, to contribute to world health, and to work with unflagging enthusiasm and humour to improve life in the North. Northerners never cease to amaze me.”