Project North hopes to deliver more hockey gear to Nunavut this year
“I have a couple of hockey players that I might be able to bring up, but I hope to announce that next"
Michelle Valberg, an Ottawa-based professional photographer, has taken a lot from the North, mostly in the form of stunning images of the people, places and animals she has seen.
Eventually, it came time to reciprocate.
“I’ve always wanted to give back. When I’m up and I’m available to photograph [this] beautiful part of the world, part of Canada, it’s my way to kind of give back,” Valberg said.
Valberg does this by handing bags full of brand-new hockey equipment to youth in different communities in Nunavut through her not-for-profit organization, Project North.
In fact, she says she’s pushed about $500,000 worth of hockey equipment to 15 different communities in the North since 2009.
Through sponsors like cruise ship firm Adventure Canada and First Air, Valberg delivers hockey equipment, usually 25 bags worth up to $25,000, to northern communities each year.
It’s impressive, and doubly so when you consider Project North was only supposed to be a “one time thing.”
“I started travelling up to the Arctic six years ago, the first time to Pond Inlet,” she said.
“And I kind of recognized that you have recreational centres or rinks, but you don’t have access to hockey equipment,” she said.
So, being a hockey lover, Valberg decided to give equipment.
And after receiving support from a variety of different companies and sponsors, she said, “It’s kind of hard not to continue the work.”
The group raises money through a campaign called Gear Up, where people can donate money for hockey sticks, shoulder pads, gloves, helmets and goalie gear, or a whole bag of equipment on their website.
This year is no different. In 2014 Valberg wants to visit communities such as Grise Fiord, Arctic Bay, Iqaluit, Resolute and Repulse Bay — although Valberg is still planning the trips, and she still needs to raise some money to achieve the 25-bag, $25,000 per community goal.
The ultimate goal of Project North is to “galvanize Canadians from coast to coast to coast to look north, become more aware, and lend a hand to support children” according to their website.
Cedar Bradley-Swan, vice-president at Adventure Canada, helps Project North by carrying the bags of equipment up to the communities through the company’s cruise ships.
This is the first year they’ll be going to Grise Fiord, and she said “it just seemed like a natural fit.”
“We’re all aware of the cost of shipping goods,” Bradley-Swan said with a laugh. She said the gear is going to a great cause.
“Physical activity — kids throughout the north and all throughout the world, kids are significantly less active than they were in previous generations,” Bradley-Swan said.
“Having access to the equipment will allow children and youth to stay active and feel the benefits of health,” she said.
The National Hockey League Player’s Association is also supporting Project North through its Goals and Dreams fund.
NHL players such as Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Kyle Quincey and Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips have participated in the Gear Up campaign in previous years.
“I have a couple of hockey players that I might be able to bring up, but I hope to announce that next,” Valberg said.
No dates have been confirmed for the deliveries as of yet.