Joanne Weedmark has been doing a lot for her community over the past year. She even got herself nominated for a national competition based off of what she’s done already.

But the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut (RPAN) also took notice of what Weedmark has done and is doing and because of that, she’s been recognized at the national level.

The recreation director of Kinngait has been named as winner of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association’s (CPRA) Emerging Leader of the Year for 2022. RPAN nominated Weedmark for the honour back in March and the decision to give the award to her was made by the CPRA at its national meetings in St. John’s earlier this month.

“It was amazing to wake up to the e-mail telling me I had won,” said Weedmark on May 19. “I thought about it but I wasn’t expecting it and it’s just amazing. It’s given me more drive to continue what I’ve already done.”

Weedmark has seemingly done whatever she could to make sure folks in Kinngait had something to do during the pandemic, whether it be at home, in-person whenever possible and even virtually.

“It’s definitely been a challenge because of Covid,” she said. “I’ve put together some at-home craft kits for the kids, making sure everyone has healthy snacks, colouring contests with prizes.”

Weedmark also applied for — and received — three grants from Rising Youth, a program operated by TakingITGlobal and funded by the federal government. Each of those grants was worth $1,500 and that money was put toward hosting cultural events for the community.

“We put on an Elders Valentines Dinner and we had them come together for a whole afternoon,” she said. “We’ve had beef stew and bannock dinner and we had 12 young ladies start and complete sewing projects.”

Dawn Currie MacKinnon, RPAN’s executive director, said Weedmark was nominated for the award mostly because of her go-getter attitude.

“She’s been a big part of getting RPAN into the community and has come on so strong since last fall,” she said. “She’s done whatever she can to get programming into Kinngait. If there’s a chance for something to happen, she’ll do it because she wants to make sure her community is involved.”

That was something Weedmark agreed with.

“I’ve jumped at all the opportunities that are out there because I hate to see them pass by,” she said. “We have to make sure there are lots of good things available to the community.”

She was also quick to give plenty of credit to those who work alongside her in Kinngait.

“You just need good staff and we have great youth leaders and it’s great that my recreation co-ordinator helps out with everything,” she said.

The next item Weedmark will be working on is the annual Get Happy Summer Day Camp program and it will be the first year Kinngait is getting involved. A total of 14 communities will be taking part in 2022 and the training is happening in Iqaluit early next month.

As for the award itself, Currie MacKinnon said the plan is for Weedmark to receive the physical honour at the Sport and Recreation Awards Gala in the capital in October.

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