A group of artists, storytellers and speakers are hitting the ice roads of Manitoba on Sunday, carrying a message of hope to high school students in 15 northern communities.

The Youth Empowerment Ice Road tour kicks off its seven-week circuit this weekend, with stops planned throughout northern communities for music, documentary screenings and workshops centred on this year's theme of empathy.

The tour is put on by Live Different, a non-profit group that has been organizing high school programming for 15 years. Presenters include a handful of speakers whose lives have been changed by previous ice road tours.

"Whether it was hearing somebody's story or hearing some of the message through the videos or through different examples, they have come out of some of their situations on a positive note," said Trisha North, a team leader for one of the presenting groups.

"And so I think that's really what the hope is for Live Different, is to actually reach out to some people to let them know that there is hope."

Connection, isolation

North said one big issue facing the group is access; for the ice road tour to work, temperatures have to drop and stay low enough that the roads are passable for vans full of people and equipment.

Winnipeg musician Skyler Roulette will be on the tour. Roulette said he wants to help connect youth who might otherwise feel isolated.

"Growing up in a reserve, being cut off from the big cities, you know, just to let them know there's more out there than just, like, being isolated in these small communities."

This year, the group is expanding its usual one-hour program into two full days of programming in each community.

With files from Holly Bernier, Pierre Verriere