Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory) is sending a huge Miigwetch to the community for supporting the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub’s annual Back to School barbecue, and to the Government of Ontario for supporting two important initiatives for youth in our area.

On a busy Wednesday morning on Kenora’s Harbourfront, the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub kicked off its annual back to school barbecue event where staff gave away lunch, school supplies and backpacks to youth, and helped educate the community on what services and supports are available at the Hub.

Inside the Hub, several community partners hosted resource and activity tables to highlight what services they can offer to youth in the community. We send a big Miigwetch to our sponsors and staff from WNHAC, LEAP, WJS, Firefly, KPDSB and KCDSB, KSAC, KACL, Ne-Chee Friendship Centre and Right to Play.

“It’s a great community collaboration to provide a lot of school supplies for kids in the fall, and to share our community resources with people,” explains Tess Lavelle-Sutton, Program Manager at the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub.

Raffle prizes were also given away to a few lucky winners, with packages sponsored by BoardAnyone, Island Girl, Dairy Queen, Northern Sounds and Systems and Sweet Lake of the Woods.

During the event, Ogimaawabiitong took time to recognize two grants received from the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Through the Resilient Communities Fund, the Trillium Foundation has provided KCA with $150,000 in funding over 12 months to support the hiring of two full-time staff and the purchase of a vehicle in support of youth mental health initiatives across the region.

“We’d like to say a big Miigwetch to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support towards the camp,” says Serena Kenny, Operations Manager of KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp.

“With the dollars we received, we will be able to reach more youth in need, and will be able to build and form meaningful relationships with youth and their families,” Kenny adds.

Currently, individuals experiencing a mental health crisis or attending services do not have reliable transportation in the Treaty #3 area – something KCA is working to address.

Through this funding, KCA was able to provide First Nation individuals living in remote communities with transportation to allow individuals to have opportunities to connect with cultural healing and land-based activities at KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp, as well as to hire the staff required for the role.

“We can travel to all of our member communities, and we can bring [kids] to the camp to provide activities and cultural healing,” explains Jen Coulis, Recreational Wellness Manager at the KCA Youth and Family Wellness Camp.

“Transportation is one of our biggest barriers. It’s really difficult. To be able to get to kids and be able to get them to where we can help, it’s necessary,” she adds.

As well, through the Trillium Foundation’s Grow Grant, the province provided KCA with $426,000 over the last 36 months in support of our Indigenous Rookie League program, which provides people with the opportunity to participate in a year-round sports program.

“We can’t say enough ‘thank you’ ‘s for this. It’s helped us so much over the last 36 months. Our league just keeps growing and getting better!” says Sports and Recreation Manager with KCA, Terry Parisien.

“The youth need this. They need the support and these activities to keep them moving, keep them healthy and get them active. Thank you to the Ontario Trillium Foundation, MPP Greg Rickford, and everyone who has helped us,” he adds.

This funding helped to enhance the league and allowed us to expand the sports and cultural programming being offered to our communities, as well as providing the resources to hire additional staff in support.

Parisien notes this funding also helped to address mental health issues by supporting the positive development of strong emotional and social skills for our Indigenous youth across Treaty #3, especially throughout the lows of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once again, Ogimaawabiitong sends a huge Miigwetch to the Government of Ontario, Kenora – Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their continued support, as well as our sponsors and community members for supporting the Youth Hub’s Back to School barbecue.

“The Kenora Chiefs Advisory is an integral part of our community,” explains Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development, Greg Rickford.

“The youth programming continues to enhance the lives of Indigenous youth and provide local opportunities for young families, and the Ontario government is pleased to support this endeavor,” adds Rickford.

Donations to the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub can be made anytime at 120 Main Street South, Monday to Friday between 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., or by calling 807-467-8468 to schedule an appointment. Staff say warm clothing for youth between 10 and 25 are their most-needed items.

Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory) is an alliance of independent, participating First Nations within the Western Region and has been incorporated and in operation since 1995.

The Kenora Chiefs Advisory’s mandate is to provide programs and services to the First Nations in the field of health, education and social services in a holistic, traditional way ensuring the survival of the Anishinaabe way in the present and future generations.