First Nations teen selected Ontario Hockey League’s humanitarian of the year
Dalyn Wakely, a 19-year-old forward with the North Bay Battalion, has won the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) humanitarian of the year award called the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy.
Wakely, a member of the Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, initiated a program to help feed North Bay’s homeless and low-income populations.
Each Tuesday, beginning the past November and continuing until the end of the regular season in March, Wakely headed to The Gathering Place, a community kitchen that serves people in need. Through his Wake’s Sakes initiative, he would bring along two different teammates to help prepare and serve meals.
Wake’s Sakes also staged donation drives with bins set up at the Battalion’s home rink, the North Bay Memorial Gardens.
Throughout the season fans collectively donated more than 600 winter coats, 450 mitts and gloves, 400 hats and more than 2,000 hygiene products.
About $2,100 in monetary donations were also turned over to The Gathering Place.
Battalion general manager Adam Dennis was thrilled Wakely was picked as the OHL’s top humanitarian.
“He’s so deserving of it,” Dennis said. “There’s no phoniness to it. This is Dal. This is who he is.”
Dennis said he saw Wakely’s care for others early on in his rookie season with the Battalion.
When other newcomers to the club expressed that they were feeling homesick, Wakely asked his billets if it was okay to invite those players over for meals.
“He would tell his billets, ‘I think this would help’,” Dennis said. “He wants to be able to help others. He wants to make sure everybody is okay.”
Wakely had been named the Battalion team’s humanitarian of the year to be eligible for this year’s league award. The Battalion had also chosen him for the team award for the 2021-22 campaign. Wakely would hop on Zoom calls and offer advice to area youth players.
This year, Wakely chose to assist North Bay’s homeless. He said he just wanted to do his part to help out.
“The community of North Bay, I find, is such a tight one,” he said. “I think that fits my personality and how I was brought up.”
By winning the OHL award, Wakely is now the league’s nominee for the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) humanitarian of the year. Also nominated are the Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League winners.
The CHL winner will be announced June 3 at an awards ceremony held in conjunction with this year’s Memorial Cup, to be staged in Kamloops, B.C.
Dennis Chippa, the executive director of The Gathering Place, was thrilled to have Wakely come out each week to help out at the facility.
“Dalyn is fantastic,” he said. “He’s so good in understanding both the client base that we serve and understanding whether they’re dealing with a mental health or an addiction issue. He showed a lot of leadership this season and even spent time educating others on mental health and addiction.
“Dalyn is surprisingly knowledgeable for a fellow his age on these concepts. He demonstrated a complete comfort level and a real understanding of the community that we serve.”
Chippa added that Wakely’s work led to others also wanting to lend a hand.
“Dalyn’s efforts this season really served to inform our community that there is a population that is often ignored,” he said. “His project was amazing to give that education out to the general population. We’ve seen a number of groups that have contacted us either donating items or donating money and they’ve informed us that they had no idea we even existed, and that they heard about us at the Battalion game.”
Wakely has now turned his attention to the playoffs.
“Individual awards are pretty special,” Wakely said. "But once the playoffs started, my focus changed to helping the team win a championship.”
Wakely and his teammates will have to emerge victorious in a game on Monday, May 8, to keep those hopes alive.
That’s because the Battalion and the Peterborough Petes are deadlocked at 3-3 in their OHL Eastern Conference best-of-seven series.
Wakely and his teammates are hosting Game 7 on Monday. The winner will advance to square off against the Western Conference champion London Knights in the best-of-seven OHL championship series.
Wakely has collected eight points, including five goals, in North Bay’s 19 playoff contests so far this spring.
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com