Located in the Lakeland area of northeast Alberta, Fishing Lake Métis Settlement is one of 8 Métis settlements in Alberta. This community, home to more than 600 people – approximately one third of whom are youth – launched a Right To Play Program for the first time after years with few youth programming options.

Having felt both nervous and excited to kick-start her Youth Leadership Program in October, Community Mentor Kristy McGillis, a former teachers’ assistant, couldn’t be happier with the result. “Every night we have the same kids, they’re happy and excited,” she shares.

Kristy, who says that this small community has experienced a lot of trauma and high rates of crime, goes on to add that she’s been receiving good feedback from parents. “I’ve been getting compliments…for doing fun, positive activities for kids”.

Fishing Lake’s Right To Play program focuses on fostering heathy relationships by building self-esteem, communication and leadership skills and tackling peer pressure. It does this through a mix of games like Capture the Flag, arts and craft activities, guest facilitators like Dragonfly Counselling and lots of sports!

PLAY Winter 2018-19 Seasonal Report
Former NHL player Cody McCormick poses with participants Layla Dustow & Shylo Podolecki-Lindsay.

A community big on baseball in particular, Kristy saw Right To Play’s Sport For Development clinics as an opportunity to introduce the youth in her community to a new sport: hockey! Though 90% of the youth did not know how to skate, Kristy was confident that learning the fundamentals of the sport would help them develop leadership and physical literacy skills, and ultimately build their confidence to continue trying new sports.

After weeks of planning with her supervisor, Kayla Fayant, Kristy hosted a 5-day clinic at the arena in neighbouring Frog Lake, facilitated by former Indigenous NHL player Cody McCormick and Right To Play staff. During the day, children and youth rotated through on-ice activities such as skating lessons, drills, and off-ice life-skills games and activities. Evening events were open to community members from both Frog Lake and Fishing Lake, where adults and children alike skated and played together.

“We brought our community together...it’s not very often that this happens.”

The clinic was a huge success, with over 90 youth participating and more than 80 participants at evening events including parents, guardians and Elders. "I couldn’t believe the people who came out, faces that I would never have guessed would come. We brought our community together like this, it’s not very often that this happens”. The event culminated on home ice at Fishing Lake’s outdoor rink, with a community skate and wiener roast.

Kristy is certain that she will try hosting another clinic like this soon, and is keen to continue fostering a positive relationship with Frog Lake. “I would also like to continue to have bigger events and I feel like this clinic has increased my capacity and ability to do so.”

“This was a big confidence booster [for the youth],” Kristy says. The letters that rolled in from youth after the clinic say it all…