Volunteer Fontaine gives back to the next generation of aspiring Indigenous athletes

An athlete his entire life and now a father, volunteer Leroy Fontaine knows first-hand the importance and impact an event like the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) has on Indigenous youth.  

North American Indigenous Games come full circle for Halifax firefighter

Man with short brown hair, smiling, wearing a grey-blue shirt and a medallion around his neck with the number 43 on it. In the background are petroglyphs interpreted as "A blue hand with a five-pointed star and a fiddlehead on the thumb." With writing in black text with a red background.
Leroy Fontaine is a volunteer at the North American Indigeous Games. (Aaron Googoo/Googoo Design - Photography by Robert Short/CBC)
An athlete his entire life and now a father, Leroy Fontaine knows first-hand the importance and impact an event like the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) has on Indigenous youth. 

Leroy is Dene from Chipewyan Prairie First Nation. He lives in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and works as a firefighter for Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency. For NAIG 2023, he is the volunteer venue lead for the Halifax Common. 

How did you become a volunteer with the Games?
"I got involved with NAIG pre-pandemic, when they were planning the Games for 2020. Our fire department was involved in the early conversations and I've stayed involved since then. Our goal as Halifax Professional Firefighters was to contribute to the Games in the largest way possible, and softball at the Commons was always on our radar."

Nine people: eight of them wearing red t-shirt with a canoe logo on the front in blue, yellow, red and black. Six standing in the back and three kneeling in front. Man in front centre with grey hair and a white fire captains shirt.
Leroy Fontaine (front row, far right) joins fellow Halifax firefighters at the NAIG 2020 volunteer launch, which were postponed because of the pandemic. The Halifax Fire & Emergency will be volunteering at NAIG 2023 from July 15-23. (Greg Guy / CBC)

What are you most excited about in your role as a volunteer with NAIG?
"I'm most excited about seeing this venue come to life for all of the athletes, coaches and spectators to enjoy during the Games."

How has volunteering with NAIG had an impact on you?
"What this means to me as an Indigenous person — who has had the privilege to play a sport at an elite level and realize the positive changes it has created in my life —  is having this opportunity to give back to the next generation of young aspiring Indigenous athletes. So far, it has been an amazing experience meeting and working with so many great volunteers. The positive energy is contagious!"

What do you think you will remember most about the Games?
I think I'll remember the smiles and joy on each of the athletes' faces. As a past athlete for both the Alberta Summer and Winter Games and the U19 Football Canada Cup, I know the everlasting memories these young athletes will have of participating in such a great event like the North American Indigenous Games."

Having volunteered in many different capacities in a wide range of initiatives over the years — including with my fire department and helping the homeless every year around Christmas — NAIG has been one of the most positive experiences yet, with great people on the same mission.- Leroy Fontaine

What is your time with NAIG teaching you?
"My time with NAIG is teaching me leadership skills and how to delegate." 

What would you like other people to know about NAIG?
"NAIG and its members have so much passion for what they do and what they all want to accomplish, which is a positive experience for all." 

What is one word that best describes your experience as a volunteer with NAIG?

What do you do for fun when you are not volunteering?
"My fun consists of spending family time with my wife and two young children, and making sure I get my workouts in when I'm not busy chasing my toddlers around."

Is there anything else you would like to share about your volunteer experience with NAIG?
"I encourage all to come out and volunteer, there's a place for everyone."

A blue circle with the words "#NAIG2023 Volunteer Spotlight Series" white text in the centre of a series of Indigenous-styled petroglyphs in red, grey, yellow and blue.
(Aaron Googoo / Googoo Design)

NAIG 2023 Volunteer Spotlight Series

Throughout National Indigenous History Month, CBC Atlantic is shining the spotlight on some of the incredible people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous –  who are volunteering their time and talents to help North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) welcome more than 5,000 athletes from across Turtle Island to Mi'kma'ki. Through their acts of kindness, the series will help inspire others to see themselves as part of the Games and to share cultural learnings. 

About NAIG 2023

When: July 15-23
Where: Kjipuktuk (Halifax), Dartmouth and Millbrook First Nation
Number of Sports: 16
Number of athletes, coaches, team staff: 5,000
Number of volunteers: 3,000+
Number of volunteer hours: 60,000+
Number of Indigenous Nations attending the Games: 756