NORTHERN ONTARIO – Last week, I had the pleasure, honour, privilege, and opportunity to travel with the Dreamcatcher Foundation to four fly-in communities in Northern Ontario.
Each year since 2010, the Dreamcatcher Foundation has donated playgrounds to different fly-in communities in Northern Ontario. To date they have donated 17 playgrounds.
The communities who received playgrounds this year were Sandy Lake, Deer Lake, Pikangikum and Cat Lake.
I was lucky enough to travel with a great team of volunteers including one of the owners of the Two Row Times David Laforce, and 5 Dreamcatcher Foundation volunteers: Jennifer Rowe, Alison Bogoslowski, Alyssa Baxter, Steven Bogoslowski, and photographer/videographer Steve Haining.
Early in the week, Dave and I departed from Toronto and met the Dreamcatcher team in Thunder Bay and headed over to Wasaya Airlines for our charter flight.
A team of installers had travelled up to each community a couple of weeks ago to install the playgrounds. We were there to open each new park and to celebrate that opening with each community.
In each community we set up our tents and tables and served hot-dogs and juice to almost every kid from each community. The Dreamcatcher Foundation also gave away a backpack filled with school supplies to every student. I’m pretty sure we set a record for the most hotdogs cooked over a 4 day period (over 2,400 hotdogs!).
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to travel around each community talking with band councillors, community members, parents, police officers, teachers, principals and more. This was the most rewarding aspect of the trip.
I knew that this was going to be a trip to remember. But as we met more people, heard more stories and saw the impact these playgrounds had on the children, this quickly became an experience that I will never forget.
Play is such an important aspect of childhood development and we witnessed that first hand. The joy that these playgrounds provided to these children, and the pride that they instilled in their parents is something that I will never forget. When you see a playground in Southern Ontario you might see a handful of kids playing on it at any given time. In each of these communities we witnessed around 50 kids at all times playing and having fun. Kids having the opportunity to be kids. And that was something very special to witness.