When Louise Schumann's son made the midget hockey team heading to the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska, she knew she wanted to be there.
But flights from Hay River, Northwest Territories, were expensive and complicated, with multiple stopovers and an overnight stay in Seattle or Vancouver.
“We just started throwing around the idea: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a charter?’” Schumann says.
She contacted Sport North, the organization behind Team NWT, but found they were already tied up with the logistics of getting 350 athletes, coaches and support staff from across the territory to Alaska.
A few phone calls later, Schumann was organizing the first charter flight for parents who wanted to go cheer on their kids.
“My sister and I chipped in for the down payment and we started filling the plane.”
The stakes were high: Schumann and her sister put $14,000 on the line.
“We had 50 seats sold, and then it went into a lull and we got really nervous.”
But soon they found the fans: 23 from Hay River, 1 from Fort Smith and almost 70 from Yellowknife. They opened it up to people from Nunavut — provided they could get to Yellowknife to board the flight — and got about 30 more takers.
Corinne Attagutsiak of Iqaluit is planning to go. She’s already launched a Facebook site she’ll use to share photos and results with other Nunavut parents.
Kyra Tanuyak is from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut (pop. 373). Her son, aged 12, was selected to represent Nunavut in Arctic Sports, and she and her husband will be there to watch.
“He’s our only boy and he’s our youngest,” Tanuyak says.
Schumann says the last hurdle was collecting money from parents spread out across the North where banks are few and far between. Fortunately, Sport North chipped in to help manage the flight list and the cash.
Air North is operating the flight, but First Air has offered discounts to parents travelling to Yellowknife beforehand.
And when the plane takes off, they’ll be ready.
"It's been so exciting,” Schumann says. “We've even had people who've organized purchasing of parent jackets and parent hoodies and you know, we all wanna go there dressed, looking unified and just cheering on Team NWT and Team Nunavut."
The Arctic Winter Games run March 15-22 in Fairbanks.