Sports gear donated to northern communities

A military Hercules aircraft is carrying donated sporting goods to 20 communities across the North this week, part of a project leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A military Hercules aircraft carrying donated sporting goods to 20 communities across the North this week, part of a project leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The donated hockey, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and basketball equipment began its northern journey Monday as part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Truce Northern Outreach Project, which officially launched Monday morning in Winnipeg.

The project is organized by the 2010 Olympic organizing committee (known as VANOC), the Canadian Forces and the United Nations Association of Canada.

"Canada is the largest country in the world ever to host the Winter Olympics, and it's six times the size of Europe," VANOC chief executive officer John Furlong told CBC News on Monday.

"We have plenty of need at home, and so we thought, why not try to do some outreach work in our own country, where there's definitely a need?"

Furlong said the donated equipment will foster more play and hopefully mean less conflict in northern communities.

First stops in Yukon

The sports gear — donated by Nike as well as the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames teams — has been loaded into a CC-130 Hercules aircraft at CFB Winnipeg and is scheduled to fly to the Yukon community of Watson Lake on Monday afternoon.

Canadian Forces spokesperson Jennifer Taylor said the Hercules will spend Monday night in Whitehorse, then drop off more donations Tuesday in the Yukon communities of Faro and Mayo.

The Hercules will also deliver the donated sporting goods to Norman Wells, N.W.T., on Tuesday.

Other communities that will receive donations this week are:

  • Wednesday: Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.; Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
  • Thursday: Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Kugaaruk, Hall Beach and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
  • Friday: Coral Harbour, Baker Lake, Whale Cove and Arviat, Nunavut.

The military says it will also deliver donations to Fort Simpson, Fort Smith and Hay River, N.W.T., in early February.

'Spirit boxes'

Each community will receive an "Olympic spirit box" that includes 40 jerseys, 20 hockey sticks and 10 balls, five soccer balls, five basketballs, 20 baseball gloves, 10 baseballs, four bats and four bases.

Taylor said Canadian Rangers, Junior Rangers and cadets in each community will unload the "spirit boxes" and deliver the donations.

Sharon Firth, a cross-country skier and four-time Olympian originally from Inuvik, N.W.T., will be among the officials aboard the Hercules as it makes its deliveries.

The northern outreach project is part of the Olympic Truce program, which encourages world peace through sport.

Olympic host nations often direct Olympic Truce efforts to other nations in need, but Furlong said organizers decided this time to focus within Canada.

The initiative has the support of the three territorial governments and some of the North's major aboriginal organizations, including the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Dene Nation and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.