Hockey gear brings hope to First Nations kids - Oshawa sends truckload of equipment north
By Jillian Follert - Aug 30, 2007
OSHAWA -- It may look like bags of skates and jerseys, but to Grand Chief Stan Beardy, the hockey equipment overflowing from Oshawa MPP Jerry Ouellette's office is a lifesaver.
On Wednesday afternoon, Grand Chief Beardy, of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, met with the local MPP and representatives from the hockey community, to thank Oshawa for donating truckloads of gear to the youth in his far-flung northern communities.
"For you, it might not mean that much to collect some hockey equipment," Grand Chief Beardy said. "But the difference you're making is life and death."
Youth suicide is a horrifying trend in the 50 First Nation communities represented by the Grand Chief.
In the past year alone, 28 young people between the ages of 12 and 25 have taken their own lives.
But there is hope, and sports programs are proving to be part of the solution.
"Sports programs, like hockey, give the kids hope and direction," explained Mr. Ouellette.
Two years ago, the Grand Chief issued a plea for help at Queens Park, and the Oshawa MPP responded by setting up a donation program for hockey equipment.
The call went out to local hockey leagues and sports stores, and generated an overwhelming response. The first truckload made its way north last fall, and another is set to leave this week courtesy of Rockbrune Brothers Movers.
Organizations that helped collect donations include the Oshawa Lady Generals Hockey Association, Oshawa Minor Hockey Association, Crow Sports, Oshawa Church Hockey League and Neighbourhood Association Sports Committee.
Grand Chief Beardy said people living in southern Ontario often don't realize how difficult it is youth in his communities to do things others take for granted, like play hockey.
Thirty-six of his 50 communities are 'fly-in', which means residents must pay for a $1,000 flight to the nearest service centre, to purchase things like sports gear.
The only things sold in the individual communities, are basic staples stocked at the general stores.
"What you're doing is very touching for me," the Grand Chief said, wiping a tear from his eye. "My people have a lot of hopelessness... but you are making a difference."
For information on donating hockey or other sports equipment to this project, contact MPP Ouellette's office at 905-723-2411.