Volunteers shine at Rec and Parks conference

Volunteers shine at Rec and Parks conference
From left to right: Fort Smith resident Denise Yuhas, Joanne Ogina on behalf of the seven members of the Uluhaktok Youth Council and Mario Desforges on behalf of his daughter, Gabrielle Desforges.Photo: Pat Kane.

Three leaders were recognized for their remarkable contributions to sport and recreation in their communities last Wednesday evening at the NWT Recreation and Parks association (NWTRPA) annual awards banquet in Yellowknife.

The three Awards of Excellence recipients included the Ulukhaktok Youth Council, Yellowknife youth Gabrielle Desforges, who obtained the Scott McAdam Youth Leadership Award, and Denise Yuhas of Fort Smith, who won the Innovation Award. The presentation was part of the NWTRPA’s annual conference held at the Legislative Assembly.

“We look for special achievements and a recognition from their community that they’ve done something special,” said Geoff Ray, the executive director of NWTRPA.

The Ulukhaktok Youth Council, a group of volunteers aged 16 to 23, were recognized for their efforts to fundraise for the local daycare program and events like jamborees, Canada Day and Aboriginal Day. They have also entered into contribution agreements with their education authority and regional development corporation.

“They’re an amazing group of kids. They’re young and they’re having a big impact and taking on a huge leadership role in their community,” Ray said.

Desforges, a 19 year-old judoka on the national development team, was honoured for her leadership role in bringing judo to young people in Yellowknife.

At the age of 14 or 15, she started a judo club in her school and has initiated similar groups in other community as well. Desforges is committed to getting kids active, believing the characteristics of judo and its strict code of conduct can lead people to healthier lifestyles.

Yuhas was honoured for her work organizing construction of a running track in Fort Smith.

“She was the champion for the project and brought together large groups of disparate people, managed to pull all the pieces together, and now there’s a world-class facility in Fort Smith,” Ray said. “Anywhere else in Canada that kind of project would cost over a million dollars, and she was able to do it on volunteer time and contributions from businesses and other organizations.”

Yuhas is humble when faced with such praise, referring to herself as the “chief nag.”

“This is really an award for the community,” she said. “It’s just an example of what good things can come from good partnerships. My name may be on it, but it belongs to everyone who worked on the track.”

The NWTRPA is a non-profit organization involved in active living, trails and aquatics initiatives, promoting healthy lifestyles for all Northerners by supporting recreation in communities.

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