When Chae McCallum saw the big smile on her seven-year-old son’s face while donning a Blue Jays T-shirt and foam bat, she knew she had made the right choice to enroll her son in Anishnabeg Outreach’s youth multi-sports program.
McCallum’s son, who has ADHD, has thrived in Anishnabeg Outreach’s youth multi-sports program, meeting new kids, keeping busy and learning the value of teamwork.
“It’s been so beneficial for him,” says McCallum. “I know my son, he doesn’t like to lose at anything, but this program has really put the foundation of sportsmanship and teamwork into him.”
Laine Padovan, the program’s coordinator, says that is the goal. “The same kids come out and create friendships, and I see a lot of positivity and teamwork.”
The program is run by Anishnabeg Outreach, an Indigenous community organization in Kitchener that offers reconciliation training, early childhood programs, healing rituals and sports programs catered to adults and youth.
The youth multi-sports program is for Indigenous youth ages six to 12, and operates on Mondays and Saturdays. The organization also offers floor hockey on Tuesday and Thursdays, and will be launching an ice hockey program this winter. As part of the program children are provided with equipment free of charge.
Indigenous wellness and healing services manager, Jessica Kewageshig, says that sports plays a crucial role in Indigenous healing.
“We want our sports program to change the narrative for Indigenous youth,” says Kewageshig. “Sport is a vehicle for positive youth development. Some Indigenous youth are not given the opportunity to participate due to circumstances out of their control. So we want to create an environment where sports participation works.”
McCallum notes that sports brings people together saying, “Sports brings the community together, and that is healing.”
Because of that, sports has always been a part of the long-term vision of Anishnabeg Outreach, says Kewageshig.
“Sports participation has a trickle down effect resulting in several undeniable positive outcomes,” says Kewageshig. “Our vision started with sports as part of the long-term outcome, and we are super excited to have been able to launch this program and provide it to the Indigenous community.”
For more information about Anishnabeg Outreach's multi-youth sports program head to https://aocan.org
Story Behind the Story: After connecting with Indigenous organizations in the Waterloo Region, reporter Genelle Levy aimed to write about initiatives that uplifted Indigenous youth.
Genelle Levy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cambridge Times