Kinngait, Nunavut, resident wins national leadership award for work boosting local recreation

·3 min read
Joanne Weedmark, 24, is from Kinngait, Nunavut. When she started in the hamlet's recreation department just over a year ago, she realized there was a lack of programming. Now her efforts are being recognized on a national stage. (Submitted by Dawn Currie - image credit)
Joanne Weedmark, 24, is from Kinngait, Nunavut. When she started in the hamlet's recreation department just over a year ago, she realized there was a lack of programming. Now her efforts are being recognized on a national stage. (Submitted by Dawn Currie - image credit)

It wasn't easy to establish new recreational programs in Kinngait, Nunavut, especially amid a pandemic.

But 24-year-old resident Joanne Weedmark managed it all the same, and her efforts did not go unnoticed.

Weedmark found out this week she won the "emerging leader of the year" award from the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. Each year, the award recognizes one emerging leader 30 years old or younger who has made a significant contribution to the sector. The recipient was announced Monday.

Weedmark said when she started about a year ago as the recreation director for the municipality, she didn't know much about how to start up recreational activities, but she knew there was a need – and demand – for such programs in the community.

"It definitely gives you a boost of wanting to do more"
- Joanne Weedmark, Kinngait recreation director

"I sort of got the hang of it then I noticed … there was not much programming going on in the community. There was a big high staff turnover in the recreation department," she said.

Part of what helped get some projects off the ground was assistance from Nunavut's recreation association, which had reached out to set up a partnership to help offer and deliver programs in the community.

However, getting programs going wasn't smooth sailing, as COVID-19 restrictions hindered potential in-person activities. Weedmark and her team improvised instead, hosting programs over social media and over the radio.

"The last few months were definitely not easy, but … I really wanted to see things move forward," she said. "We would host radio games. And you know, it was a contactless way of programming but the youth and children really enjoyed it."

Weedmark said she's had overall positive feedback from the community, including from parents.

Learning this week that she had won the award was a shock to her, but she said it has fuelled her motivation to keep going.

"It's definitely something amazing and definitely a drive and boost to my confidence and the need to want for things to happen in my community," she said. "It definitely gives you a boost of wanting to do more."

Submitted by Dawn Currie
Submitted by Dawn Currie

She and her staff are heading to some summer day camp training in Iqaluit and they aim to host summer programs in Kinngait.

"I really enjoy working with the youth and the children here in my communities as well as bring programs for adults and elders as well."

The Recreations and Parks Association of Nunavut (RPAN), of which Dawn Currie is the executive director, nominated Weedmark for the award.

"When we started doing our programs and program deliveries and meetings and whatnot, her leadership shone," Currie said.

"Whether it was in her community, whether it was in our Zoom meetings with the youth leaders from all the communities – she definitely brought something to our group that you know, I don't know if we've had in a while."

Currie said Weedmark didn't shy away from challenges, such as the COVID-19 restrictions.

"I never heard once from her, 'We can't do that.' I heard more than I can count, 'Yeah, we got that. We're gonna get that done here," Currie said.

"The challenge that presented itself, from COVID, she just rolled with it."

The award will be formally presented in October at the RPAN awards gala.

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