A group of 20 young people recently visited Toronto to improve their skills as summer camp youth leaders, attend a Blue Jays game and to see the sights.
It was a transformative experience for participants, according to Dawn Currie, executive director of the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut (RPAN), which helped arrange the event.
One participant, 22-year-old Moses Audla from Sanikiluaq, even told her it was the best week of his life.
“To hear that a kid classified this as the best week of his life means it was a good week,” Currie said from Iqaluit, where RPAN is based. “He had the biggest grin on his face.”
RPAN visited Toronto as part of a partnership with the Jays Care Foundation, the Major League Baseball team’s official charity. Throughout the seven-year partnership, the foundation has supported RPAN with grants, equipment donations and trips like the June 21-25 visit to Toronto.
One of the key features of the itinerary was training.
Participants, ranging from 15 to 22 years old, attended workshops with fellow youth leaders from Toronto, where they exchanged knowledge and taught one another new games to play with the children in their care. They also partook in sessions on inclusivity and “how to deal with kids with different behaviours,” according to Currie.
“A big part of our program – and same with the Jays – is making sure that all kids, regardless of ability, feel welcome at the camp, and that there’s things for them to do at the camp,” she said.
The group had plenty of time for leisure too. The enduring memory for many participants will be attending a June 24 baseball game between the Jays and visiting Oakland Athletics. They were hosted in the team’s clubhouse, fed by stadium catering and met the team’s mascot.
They even made it onto the Jumbotron, a giant screen in the stadium.
“The Jumbotron was the big highlight,” Currie said. “For everyone that was there, that was the first time that they were at a major league baseball game.”
“Some of their families back home are big fans of the Jays, so they’re sitting there trying to videotape parts of the game, and themselves, and the video screen, to share their experience with family members back home, which I thought was very cool.”
The Jays beat the A’s 7-3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Danny Jansen both hit two-run homers for the home team as the RPAN group held a banner high above the field, which thanked the Jays Care Foundation for its support and greeted the world from Nunavut.
“We like to think we brought them Nunavut luck,” Currie said.
The group also visited the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and worked their way out of an escape room. Many of the participants had never been to Toronto before, but they all “loved” seeing the city, Currie said, even if some had difficultly with the stifling heat and humidity.
“I don’t think they loved it enough to move out of Nunavut to Toronto,” she laughed.