A new initiative may have warmed the hearts — and toes — of some elders in Norman Wells, Northwest Territories.
Dubbed "project happy feet," talented seamstresses in the Sahtu made moccasins for all the elders in a long-term care home in the town with grant money they accessed during the early stages of the pandemic.
Erika van de Velde-Weber, works at the Sahtú Dene Nechá Kǫ́ Long Term Care Facility, and is among those that worked on the project that started last year.
She says 11 moccasins were made for each of the 11 elders.
"We wanted to kind of have the residents who are from that community kind of matched up with somebody to make the moccasins from that community," van de Velde-Weber said.
"I think you can really see how much love was put into them, because they really are just beautiful."
There was unique approach for getting the right sizes — each of the elders' feet were traced, and those tracings were then given to the artists so they could get a sense of the size and shape.
And, that worked out just about perfectly, she added.
"We ended up [having] to do or had to do a little bit of shuffling around with the sizes at the end. But almost every pair fit perfectly to the person that they were made for," van de Velde-Weber said.
"I guess that just goes to show you the skill of the people who make them."
Though the elders were aware of the project, by the time the moccasins were ready, there was still some shock-value to the reveal, van de Velde-Weber said.
"When we gathered everyone together, and we gave them their moccasins, they were quite surprised and they were absolutely delighted," van de Velde-Weber said.
"It was really fun to get to do and I was honoured to be able to be there."
Some even got up to do a jig to the drum music playing in the background, she added.
"People wanted to get their feet moving right away."
She says many of the recipients like to wear the moccasins "almost all the time."
"The difference that's made in them is really great. Because the moccasins are so lightweight and so comfortable, it really helps them walk better … and of course they feel pride when they wear them," she said.
"So, most of them wear them all the time and maybe even fall asleep in them."
There are a few, however, who are keeping the moccasins in mint condition.
"Some, they've got them all wrapped up and they're gonna save them for a special day."