Teen plans Attawapiskat camping fundraiser

Thirteen-year-old Wesley Prankard of Niagara Falls, Ont., will be braving the elements to raise money for the Attawapiskat First Nation, which is facing a housing and infrastructure crisis.

A 13-year-old boy from Niagara Falls, Ont., will be braving the elements to raise money for the Attawapiskat First Nation, which has been facing a housing and infrastructure crisis.

Wesley Prankard says he's trying to sign up 100 other young people to camp alongside him for 48 hours on the Northern Ontario reserve during March break.

Wesley Prankard, second from left, poses with children at the Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario. Prankard has made three fundraising trips to Attawapiskat and plans his fourth for March. ((Courtesy Wesley Prankard))

"It's become an annual thing," he told CBC News on Sunday of his latest fundraising campaign, which he hopes will raise $500,000 for Attawapiskat, with each camper bringing in $5,000.

"On my first trip, I brought up 24,000 pounds of food and clothing supplies. My third trip was this August. l got to build a playground in Attawapiskat."

The teen said he became involved in helping out after his dad went to Attawapiskat on a fact-finding mission and returned with a lot of photos and stories for his son.

"I really caught on because people are living in Third World conditions in Ontario, and so I thought that this is totally unfair, especially that nobody's taking action. And so I thought, I have to."

The people of Attawapiskat have given Wesley an eagle feather, which he had framed.

"It's a sacred thing. It represents honour and courage, and it's definitely an honour to have one," he said.

About 1,800 people live in the Attawapiskat First Nation, where a severe housing shortage has forced families to dwell in tents and unheated trailers, some without access to running water and electricity.

The Red Cross recently sent relief workers to help the community. They've brought in a cargo plane of cold-weather sleeping bags and heaters as winter sets in.

The federal government says it has given Attawapiskat roughly $90 million since 2006. However, documents from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development show Attawapiskat only received $4.3 million in funding for housing since 2006.

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