Nunavut hockey camp gets a breakaway, thanks to fundraising
Parents, community members, businesses donate to cover grant shortfall
The Nunavut Stars Hockey Camp is forging ahead with its 11th season in Iqaluit, thanks to an overwhelming response from donors to cover an unexpected gap in funding.
“It’s been amazing to see community members, parents, small businesses in town — everybody come together and donate everything they could to support this camp and make it happen,” Jesse Mike, camp director, said Aug. 5.
The hockey camp, which runs Aug. 10 to 14 this year, faced a major hurdle in mid-July when two recurring grants — one from the federal government and another from the Iqaluit Amateur Hockey Association — didn’t come through.
Those grants usually cover half of the $30,000 needed to run the camp, Mike said.
“They’ve always funded us,” said Mike, who saw the free camp double in size from small beginnings in 2002, when she first helped as an on-ice volunteer. “We started to assume that they have no reason not to.”
Federal funding fell through based on the understanding that the program is for residents of Iqaluit only.
Typically, 20 to 25 per cent of the camp’s participants are from communities outside Iqaluit, Mike said, which marked it as a territory-wide program.
Meanwhile, the city’s amateur hockey association has so far withheld funding for the first time ever.
The association “explained they couldn’t, mostly because they were focusing on their development throughout the year,” Mike said. Members of the association could not be reached for comment, Aug. 5.
Camp organizers’ solution was to ramp up fundraising efforts as quickly as possible, with a call out to the public via Internet and on the radio.
The camp’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages pointed to the camp’s Indiegogo online fundraising site, which set a $10,000 goal.
Reaction was swift. Within two weeks — and as of Aug. 5 — the hockey camp had raised $8,000 of the total. Part of that money came from parents of Iqaluit players who raised $1,665 at an Aug. 2 car wash.
“We’ve had many, many people – not just parents – coming and donating,” Mike said.
“We were very frustrated about the lack of funding. We expressed our frustration, and I think it helped people realize that we rely so much on their support,” she said.
“But it’s been more inspiring now than ever before to see people come through to make it happen.”
Nunavut Hockey Stars is a completely volunteer-driven camp that draws 100 to 120 hockey-playing kids aged 5 to 18 for five days.
Activities are anchored in ice hockey, but not limited to just practicing and playing: the camp includes sessions on fitness, Inuit games, team-building exercises and nutrition.
Much like paid hockey camps elsewhere in Canada, the Nunavut camp features professional-calibre coaches and players, but free of charge, thanks to fundraising efforts and in-kind contributions from Nunavut businesses.
Among them is First Air, which flies young players — two at most per community — into Iqaluit, Mike said.
Others include Driving Force, which provides vehicles to transport volunteers and equipment, Atii Fitness Centre, and Frobisher Inn, which accommodates volunteers from other communities, and from outside Nunavut.
Among the volunteers are what Mike calls “celebrity coaches.” These have included National Hockey League greats such as defenseman Paul Coffey and coach Mike Keenan.
This year’s celebrities include Gillian Apps and Brianne Jenner, both members of Canada’s national women’s hockey team who won gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Apps’ father Syl, who led a successful NHL career in the 1970s, will also be there.
The camp will also include coaches from major-junior and university level hockey.
“All these coaches are professionals. They run (other) camps all summer where they get paid really well, but they love coming here and volunteering,” Mike said. The Nunavut Stars camp “does mean a lot to people, and it’s really shown, this past week.”