Saskatoon·Called to Action

Prairie Run Crew answering TRC call to reduce barriers to sports participation

The Saskatoon-based Prairie Run Crew Outreach Program says it brings a message of hope and restoration through living an active lifestyle as it conducts running clinics for youth.

Non-profit teams up with corporate partners to give Indigenous youth new running shoes

Tarrant Cross Child ties the laces of a new pair of running shoes given to a youth at a Prairie Run Crew clinic in the Ochapowace Nation. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Tarrant Cross Child has no problem talking about his outreach program and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action in the same breath.

For Cross Child, hope and restoration are at the centre of Prairie Run Crew, a Saskatoon-based non-profit that aims to make running more accessible to Indigenous youth with the help of corporate partners.

Cross Child, who is an ambassador for athletic footwear and apparel brand New Balance Canada and the Brainsport running specialty store in Saskatoon, uses those partnerships to equip youth with new running shoes in clinics held across the Prairies.

TRC Call No. 89 specifically addresses reducing barriers to sports participation for Indigenous peoples.

For Prairie Run Crew, the idea is that once youth have running shoes, they will be more likely to pick up and continue running as part of a healthy and active lifestyle.

"They restore their health — their mental health, as well," Cross Child told CBC News at a clinic at the Ochapowace Nation Sports Academy last October. "They start feeling good about themselves and feeling, 'You know what? I can do this.'"


Cross Child remembers being too intimidated to run in a track meet as a nine-year-old — and staying in his seat in the bleachers when it was time for his age group to run.

He said what ended up giving him the inspiration and courage to get up and run in that meet is remembering that he was wearing his "fast" blue running shoes that his grandfather had just bought him.

WATCH | Prairie Run Crew reducing barriers to sports participation: 

Prairie Run Crew reducing barriers to sports participation

8 months ago
Duration 2:18
The Saskatoon-based Prairie Run Crew Outreach Program says it brings a message of hope and restoration through living an active lifestyle as it conducts running clinics for youth.

Back into running

Running eventually became a passion for Cross Child, but the 1998 Saskatchewan Marathon winner stopped running for years as he battled an alcohol and gambling addiction.

It resulted in a suicide attempt that saw him end up in a hospital in 2014.

Two things happened after that: he completed a year-long in-residence rehabilitation program — and he started running again.

Cross Child said when he first got back into running, he couldn't make it around the equivalent of a city block. But he kept running a little more each day — and after a year, he entered and completed a marathon.

A youth shows off the new shoes Prairie Run Crew and its corporate partners gave her at at a running clinic in the Ochapowace Nation. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

He said he found running really helped his mental health.

"Hope is something we always hear communities and individuals need," he said.

"I bring a message of hope by saying, 'You can do this. Just like when I first started running, I couldn't make it around a city block. But I am now running a marathon. You have that hope that you can, too.'"

History of Blackfoot messengers

Cross Child — who is Niitsitapi from Kainai in southern Alberta, a member tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy — also sees his work in youth running clinics as a restoration of his people's ways.

He said, before they had horses, Blackfoot messengers would run messages all over what is now Western Canada.

"And I really believe by us doing this, with community partners, we are restoring our ways of being able to run, to be able to be messengers, to be able to share our stories through sport and our own stories, what we have gone through to get to that sport," he said.

Cross Child said he wants youth who attend his running clinics to share that positivity, hope and restoration with their communities.

"Because we know if we can have one athlete that goes home, they encourage their family," he said. "Then that family, in turn, goes out into the community to literally transform an entire community one athlete, one youth at a time."

Called to Action: Stories of Reconciliation features individuals and groups across the province who are embracing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. Themes range from language to justice, putting the spotlight on local efforts and the people leading them. Read more Called to Action stories here.

With files from Morgan Modjeski and Janani Whitfield