With no shortage of laughter and a few tears, the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) held its annual awards banquet in Fort Smith last week to recognize the contributions of three outstanding recreational figures.
“For all three awards, we’re looking for evidence of change in their community as a result of the contributions that the award winners have made,” Geoff Ray, executive director of the NWTRPA, told The Journal.
Jacqueline Thompson, a youth leader from Fort Simpson, took home the Scott McAdam Youth Leadership Award for her contributions to her hometown’s soccer, spring break and aquatic programs, among other volunteer efforts.
“Obviously it’s really clear she is a really important part of their community,” Tim Van Dam, the South Slave representative for NWTRPA and emcee for the evening’s awards, told the crowd.
Thompson accepted the award and wiped away tears as she read a speech thanking those in her life who influenced her volunteerism, including the award’s namesake, the late McAdam.
“Having known Scott personally as a child and having experienced what a great recreation leader he was, it is with great honour that I accept this award,” Thompson said, struggling to hide her emotion.
“I tried to practice it without crying,” she admitted, laughing along with the audience.
Nathan McPherson, an NWTRPA board member, presented the Innovation Award to Amanda Grobecker from Yellowknife.
Last year Grobecker introduced Jump a Bunch to Yellowknife, a fitness program using Kangoo Jumps – similar to a rollerblade with elastic-powered ovals on the boot, which rebound to reduce the stress on joints. Since then, the program has taken off as an alternative fitness class for everyone from children to seniors.
“We have plenty of projects planned to bring this into some of the communities, too, so I’m really excited to see how this is changing everyone’s lives,” Grobecker said.
NWTRPA board member Doreen Nitsiza presented the final award of the evening, the Award of Excellence, to Hay River resident Jill Taylor. Taylor is one of the founders of the Lights On program in Hay River, which provides youth with an alternative to going out partying.
“I really encourage you, if you don’t have a program in your community, it really is worth it,” Taylor said after accepting the award. “When you can get 80 or 90 kids to come out on a Friday night and hang out in the gym, you really are doing something worthwhile.”
The NWTRPA is a non-profit, membership-driven organization that represents the interests of recreation leaders in the NWT and provides support and services in areas of leadership, active living, trails and aquatics.
The awards banquet was part of a three-day conference and annual general meeting for NWTRPA members. The conference included workshops, a tour of Wood Buffalo National Park and keynote speakers.
Attendees included members of NWTRPA, youth sent in partnership with youth centres across the NWT and community recreational leaders.
“The event is about the training and the workshops and the skills that we can learn, but more than half the benefit of having an event like this is the networking and the social part. People from Fort Liard to Tuktoyaktuk, to Fort Smith to Yellowknife can all be in the same room swapping stories,” Ray said.