BUCKTOWN – Mentors and role models from a wide range of sports and the arts brought their personal stories of triumph over adversity, as well as their accumulative celebrity to around 200 youth at Moraviantown First Nation this past weekend.
“The idea for the Youth Empowerment Summit really was the brainchild of Jessica Snake,” says Sherry Huff of Huff Media of Moraviantown, who is handling all the promotion and media for the event. “She is our manager for the Delaware Child and Family Services. She has partnered with the Delaware Nation and has held various events focusing on empowering youth. In the past it was a hockey tournament and it has now morphed into being more inclusive of kids who don’t play hockey. So that is what you are seeing now.”
Two full days of activities and face-time with the celebrities, kept both the guests and the kids engaged.
Six Nations was well represented by rocker Derek Miller and racecar driver Glenn Styres.
“Oh, my God, the kids just loved Glenn Styres,” says Huff. “I was sitting over to the side there and Glenn was just kinda sitting around the table and a little guy, maybe 5-years-old, was on his way to the washroom. He held up his hand to do a high-five as he walked by Glenn and he high fived the kid back. That was a little moment for me. Glenn was just awesome with the kids.”
Also there with his band was Derek Miller who performed for the kids, signed autographs and talked with the youth about self-esteem and toughing it out when you have to, to fulfill your dreams.
“It’s a lot of fun playing this kind of thing,” said the two-time Juno Award winning Six Nations musician. “To be able to come out and share your gift with people. As long as the kids are having fun that’s all that really matters.”
Lindsay Willier (a busy working model) finished her degree at the same time she was competing on the Canada’s Next Model TV show, which she was a finalist on.
“That showed how determined to do it all she is, and she is a powerhouse,” says Huff.
Willier, who is originally from Sucker Creek First Nation and immersed in her culture, talked to the youth about her best friend when she was growing up and the choices each of them made.
Her friend got into crack cocaine and started “going down a different path.” Lindsay told her, “I love you but I can’t go down that road. I love myself better than that and I want to go down a different path than you. I am here to support you if you need me, but I can’t be with you,” and they went their separate ways.
Today, Lindsay Willier has a degree in Child and Youth Services, she has a successful modeling career which takes her around the world, and most importantly, she is happy. Her friend, on the other hand, has not had an easy go of it. She didn’t finish high school, she’s a single mom to three children, but it’s a challenge and a struggle for her.
“Now Lindsay is helping her friend and is there to support her to help her reach her potential too,” says Huff. “That was really real, because a lot of kids were saying, ‘I don’t wanna go down that road. I wanna be like Lindsay.’ It really does speak to where the kids are at in their own lives and they can relate to what they are hearing and who they are meeting at this summit.
Canadian Woman’s Hockey Gold Medalists Jennifer Botterill and Megan Agosta thrilled the kids with stories about how they fulfilled their dreams along the way to the Olympics.
Others, who invested in the next generation of artists, dancers, singers, models, and even racecar drivers, included, Olympic Boxer, Mary Spencer from the Cape Croker First Nation; ‘So You Think You Can Dance Canada,’ finalist James Jones, from the Tallcree First Nation, who has taught and performed across North America, Europe and Australia; Actor Wesley French from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, who has appeared in the film, Kissed by Lightning, Skinwalkers Native American Man and such TV shows as Defiance, Arctic Air, Health Nutz, Cashing in, We shall Remain, and Mutant X Deacon; Jr. B hockey star with the Chatham Maroons, Brayden Hopkins, who appeared in the APTN reality series, “Hit The Ice” with former NHL’er John Chabot.
There were many others on hand as well.