When NDG running coach Mike White was listening to the Andrew Carter Morning Show on CJAD in August, he heard something that struck a chord.
The host asked Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer what an ordinary person can do to promote reconciliation. She was on air to promote the Cultural Arts Center project, but White understood from her answer that it is important to donate to any of Kahnawake’s many associations.
“That put the mustard seed in me,” he said.
His group, the NDG Roadrunners, makes a donation every year - the spoils of a yuletide bowling night. The sum tends to be modest, usually less than $250, but it has always felt good to support organizations like the local YMCA youth group and the NDG food bank.
This year, White called up Kahnawake’s Sports and Recreation Unit to learn how to support local athletes. That’s when his ears really perked up. He learned Kahnawa’kehró:non runners will be competing on Team Eastern Door and the North’s athletics squad at this summer’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). Their coach, Angie Marquis, is local too.
“Wow, yes, this is extra good,” he thought. “It’s not just going to a group. We can assist runners.”
When the charity bowling night finally came, White discovered the NDG Roadrunners were as enthusiastic as he was about the idea.
“It went bing-bang, man,” he said. “The money was flying in. We ended up with more than double what we usually do.”
In the end, White delivered a $500 cheque to the team, not to mention an offer to train together.
“I feel like them supporting us is really important, and I think we’re very grateful for this donation,”said Kariwatatie Kirby, 18, a cross-country runner on the team. Kirby, who trains every day, had always wanted to participate in NAIG, but he didn’t have an avenue to do so until he started running three years ago.
“I figured out I was getting faster and faster and going further and further, so I figured I might as well try out for the NAIG team, and I made it,” he said.
He is one of seven Kahnawa’kehró:non who will be participating on the athletics team at NAIG.
Marquis, who competed in track in the 1990s, said competition at the tournament has increased since those days. She wants to encourage her team to be ready to medal, hoping this will boost their confidence and possibly engender a long-term commitment to the sport.
The money will likely be used to buy better shoes or to pay for a facilities rental in Chateauguay to aid in training.
“It makes a huge difference,” said Marquis of the donation.
“Equipment - good running shoes, spikes, our uniforms - all these things need to be fundraised or paid for by whomever.” She said each athlete also needs to come up with around $300 just to cover the registration fee.
The mental boost can be as important as the financial one, however.
“Any time you get support as an athlete, it’s important. Whether it be cheering you on or monetary, you need that to be an athlete, especially at a competitive level,” she said.
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door