The excitement is starting to mount as programs in Chesterfield Inlet and Rankin Inlet are both are on the short list to win a substantial Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP) this month.
The Rankin Rock Hockey Camp – which is designed and led by the community's recreation director, David Clark – could bring home upwards of $100,000, while the Victor Sammurtok School teacher Glen Brocklebank-designed Qajaq Program could surpass even that amount if declared a winner.
The winners will be announced on Jan. 31.
Brocklebank said his program was nominated by Douglas Aggark, who started working with Brocklebank on the qajaqs when he was in Grade 6.
He said it was a special feeling to be nominated by a former student and graduate of the qajaq program, who stuck with it for a number of years.
"To have someone like Douglas nominate us – a community-minded, moral individual, who's gone through the qajaq program, believes in it, and knows just how fantastic it is – to think about us and put our names forward feels pretty amazing," said Brocklebank.
"If we're named a winner, we'll have more funding in this one shot than we've had through all the years the program has been running.
"The duct tape and Flex Seal I've been putting along the bottom of the qajaqs to try and keep them from sinking will no longer be necessary if we're declared a winner.
"An AIP win would set the qajaq program up for the next 10 years, at least."
Brocklebank said he actually has butterflies as Jan. 31 approaches, and the qajaq program – including the wet suits and safety gear all the students wear while training – getting a total overhaul becomes a real possibility.
He said he's looking forward to travelling to Ottawa and, although hoping for the big win, be put in a situation to network for additional funding if that doesn't happen.
"The people at AIP are going to try and put us in contact with other agencies or people who might be interested in funding us if we're not successful, so that's another shot at improvement.
"But, for now, I'm staying positive and hoping for the best."
Clark is also hoping against hope for the big win, but his job and numerous extracurricular activities, including coaching minor hockey, keep him too busy to be worrying about it.
He said the Rankin Rock Hockey Camp was nominated for the AIP by the Kivalliq Inuit Association, with team support from a hockey mom (Kelly Graham), the Nunavut Literacy Council, which is a partner of the camp program, and his own personal vision.
"Adriana (Kusugak) and Kelly did the lion's share of the work that went into our submission," said Clark.
"They did most of the hard lifting."
The 2017 camp had actually just been completed a day or two before their AIP submission deadline.
Clark had spent numerous hours on the ice running the week-long camp, and is extremely grateful to Kusugak and Graham for all their work in helping him get the application completed.
He said an AIP win would allow him to expand the camp in Rankin, and also take it into other Kivalliq communities.
"We're a finalist now and, if we do secure the win, we'd be able to run a camp in Arviat and Baker Lake.
"So, we'd have three camps running in the fall in three Kivalliq communities, which would mean we'd be very busy, but we'd also be very, very excited.
"Hopefully, we'll get good news at the end of the month and be able to look forward to a lot of exciting work ahead of us.
"I'm, obviously, very passionate about the game of hockey, but I'm also very passionate about teaching kids both hockey skills and life skills."
Clark said he's always believed in the Rankin Rock Hockey Camp, and sees being a finalist, in itself, as strong recognition for the program and tells him he's on the right track.
He said every year the camp seems to get bigger and better, and it's helping more and more kids develop their skills, which is why he started the program to begin with.
"I'm a firm believer that sport changes lives for the better in the North.
"And, along those lines, I owe a big thank you to all the youth leaders over the years for helping me grow the camp.
"The camp wouldn't be where it is today without the help of all those kids."