Thunder Bay

Game on! Cat Lake First Nation receives 2 dozen bags of hockey gear

Cat Lake First Nation received 25 bags of donated hockey equipment, with the help of Mikinakoos Children's Fund, WestJet, and North Star Air.

Equipment was donated by teams in southern Ontario so First Nations players can hit the ice

NorthStar President and COO Jeff Stout and Mikinakoos Children's Fund Executive Director Emily Shandruk load the donated hockey equipment onto North Star Air to transport to Cat Lake First Nation. (North Star Air)

Hockey players in Cat Lake First Nations in northwestern Ontario have some sweet new hockey gear with the help of donations from players in the south. 

Mikinaakoos Children's Fund and WestJet teamed up to donate around 25 bags of equipment to the community, with the help of North Star Air.

Clifford Comber is the manager of Materials Eastern Canada at WestJet, and is originally from Thunder Bay, Ont.

Comber said it all started when his own children outgrew their hockey equipment and he was trying to get it back to Thunder Bay or northern Ontario for Indigenous youth to use.

Comber said it originally started out with two bags of equipment, but when he reached out to the teams he's involved with in Oakville and Milton it grew to around 25 bags of equipment in three days.

"To be honest… My original plan was just to fly it up to Thunder Bay on WestJet and get some family members to drive it up north," said Comber.

"So when we had 25 bags of equipment … I needed help," said Comber.

Comber reached out to WestJet and asked if they could help him get it to Thunder Bay for him and he would take care of getting it to youth. The airline then reached out to their contact and came together to get the gear to youth up north.

Clifford Comber helped donate 25 bags of hockey equipment to Cat Lake First Nation. It all started when he wanted to donate his children's equipment to youth in the north. (Submitted by Clifford Comber)

Jeff Stout is the President and COO of North Star Air, and is also a board member for Mikinakoos Children's Fund. He says he had a conversation with WestJet about where the equipment can be used, and thought about Mikinakoos right away.

Stout said it turned out at that time, they were working with the Kam River Fighting Walleye on a hockey program in Cat Lake, and it seemed like a natural fit for the equipment.

"We're able to blend in and synergize those three parties to create a good, a real good, story in supporting the North. And it's been such a tough two years for everyone," said Stout.

North Star Air and Mikinakoos have teamed up on other projects before, and Stout said it's the least they can do for communities in the north.

"We understand our role as a community leader and the need to give back and support community based initiatives when we can," said Stout.

Comber is proud of how people came together to help out Indigenous youth, and plans to do it all again next year with more time and planning going into it. He hopes to surpass the 25 bags they've received this year.

"There's so many positives that come out of sports and teamwork that, for me, that's the most fulfilling part I think is just that I'm able to help and give our people a voice," said Comber.

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