Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit January 22, 2016 - 8:45 am

More than $11,000 raised for injured Inuk dancer in Cuba

“He’s strong. He’s got a good heart. I think God will be watching over him"

LISA GREGOIRE
Napu Boychuk, joking with a nurse recently, at the Circa Garcia hospital in Havana, Cuba, where the young dancer is recovering from a spinal cord injury. (TUUTALIK BOYCHUK FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Napu Boychuk, joking with a nurse recently, at the Circa Garcia hospital in Havana, Cuba, where the young dancer is recovering from a spinal cord injury. (TUUTALIK BOYCHUK FACEBOOK PHOTO)
John Manzo, in a black shirt and jeans with his back to the camera, teaches the merengue at a fundraiser for Napu Boychuk at the Cadet Hall in Iqaluit Jan. 16. (PHOTO COURTESY JOHN MANZO)
John Manzo, in a black shirt and jeans with his back to the camera, teaches the merengue at a fundraiser for Napu Boychuk at the Cadet Hall in Iqaluit Jan. 16. (PHOTO COURTESY JOHN MANZO)

"Napu's Poutine," complete with salami, Italian sausage and bacon, was the hit of the fundraiser for injured dancer Napu Boychuk. (PHOTO COURTESY JOHN MANZO)

How can you go wrong with poutine made with homemade french fries and topped with salami, bacon and Italian sausage?

Called “Napu’s Poutine,” this dish quickly sold out — which is what you want to see at a fundraiser to help its namesake.

John Manzo, who helped organize an Iqaluit fundraiser Jan. 16 to help pay the medical costs of Napu Boychuk — recovering from a spinal cord injury in Cuba — said Jan. 21 that the night raised $11,000.

Manzo said he wasn’t entirely surprised by the turnout and the amount of money raised because he and fellow organizer, Christine Lamothe, “cast a pretty wide net in a social way and not only that, Tuutalik herself has a lot of friends.”

Napu Boychuk, along with his sister Tuutalik Boychuk and father Dan Boychuk, were in Cuba on holiday last month when Napu was injured Dec. 13 in a strong undercurrent on the beach which left him temporarily unconscious with a spinal cord injury.

A dance student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Napu underwent surgery in Cuba and some feeling has returned to his limbs, though he is still unable to move them, Manzo said.

“I haven’t spoken to him but I’ve been receiving emails from Tuutalik. It seems Napu is in positive spirits and he’s optimistic about his recovery,” said Manzo. “I know that he is receiving very good care. It’s unfortunate that the insurance company stopped payments.”

According to Facebook posts made by Tuutalik, Napu had medical insurance through Manulife but that company stopped paying costs after Jan. 7 saying Napu’s condition post-surgery was no longer considered “an emergency” and that he was well enough to fly home to Canada.

But doctors in Cuba advised against moving him because of his fragile state. Meanwhile, Napu receives such good care and rehabilitation at the world-renowned Circa Garcia hospital in Havana that family members decided to keep him there for now and pay expenses out-of-pocket.

That’s why friends are trying to raise money to offset those mounting costs.

“I know our efforts are really helping them,” Manzo said.

The Jan. 16 fundraiser at the Cadet Hall drew about 200 people, not including all the folks Manzo ferried over from the Iqaluit Legion throughout the evening so they could buy late night snacks.

Manzo said the $11,710 came from donations at the door along with 50-50 tickets and loonie-toonie tickets which gave purchasers a chance to win donated prizes and services. They also sold food, donated baked goods and alcohol.

And the money is still coming in. Manzo said people who weren’t able to attend the fundraiser are still giving him money: he e-transfers it to Tuutalik as the money comes in.

But Iqaluit’s not the only place where people are missing Napu and concerned about his recovery.

Some of his friends and fellow dancers in Toronto have also contributed to the fundraising efforts.

“When I heard the news, my heart just dropped. He’s very talented. I think he started dancing late in life but he’s a very hard worker,” said Kevin Pugh of Toronto’s Dance Teq, a long-time dance company in Toronto and a partner in Dance Teq Centre, a studio offering various types of dance instruction, martial arts and pilates.

Pugh said Napu has danced at the studio for about 10 years and is also a personal friend. Everyone who knows Napu was devastated by the news of the young Inuk man’s accident, Pugh said.

“He’s strong. He’s got a good heart,” he said. “I think God will be watching over him. He’s in the best hospital in Cuba, great doctors.”

On Jan. 30, instructors who teach at Dance Teq Studio, along with some invited instructors, will be offering classes all day. The proceeds will go to Napu and his family.

Pugh said he’s selling raffle tickets with dance lessons and classes as prizes and also has a donation box if people don’t want to buy raffle tickets.

“Everyone at Dance Teq and Dance Teq Centre who knows Napu is just rooting for him and praying for him,” Pugh said. “We miss him in classes. Get well soon.”

You can donate to Napu’s family at two different fundraising sites here and here.

You can also watch a short video of Napu ballet dancing here.

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