Two outstanding women from Fort Smith were among several leaders in sport recognized last week by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) for their contributions to their communities and recreation in the territory.
At a ceremony held in Yellowknife on Oct. 8, Juneva Green was given the organization’s prestigious Honorary Lifetime Membership Award for her decades of volunteer service, while Genevieve Côté accepted the Innovation Award on behalf of the Fort Smith Paddling Club’s annual Slave River Paddlefest, a staple on the NWT summer calendar.
Celebrating a lifetime of achievement
“Juneva was given the Honorary Lifetime Membership Award primarily for her volunteer work in recreation for Fort Smith,” said Tim Van Dam, who sits on the NWTRPA board for the South Slave. “There are currently six members in that elite club and she is now the seventh.”
Van Dam said there was no contest for the award; as soon as the panel of NWTRPA judges saw Green’s resume, they immediately recognized her as the winner.
Fort Smith volunteer Patti-Kay Hamilton started working with Green over three decades ago and helped prepare her nomination for the award.
“She’s always just been wonderful and…I don’t remember her ever saying no if somebody needed a volunteer,” Hamilton said.
According to Hamilton, Green always had a hand in volunteer work throughout the community, garnering her Fort Smith’s Citizen of the Year Award for 2014, but is best known for her role with the Fort Smith Ski Club.
In the ‘70s, Green initiated the Jackrabbits program for young cross-country skiers and over the next 30 years introduced generations of young athletes to the sport. She also invested in her own training so she could coach older athletes all the way to territorial, national and international levels of competition.
From the time she was young, Green said she lived an active life and her volunteer work was simply an extension of that.
“It’s just something that I enjoy doing,” Green said. “It’s a way to be involved in your community and it’s something that keeps you young, particularly being involved with children.”
The award was presented just in time for Green’s big move south, as she and her husband Jim decided to leave their community of three decades to stake out a new home in Alberta.
“She’s leaving – that’s the sad thing,” Hamilton said, “and she’s going to be sorely missed.”
Proactively protecting the Slave River
“The innovation award is designed to recognize people and organizations who take a unique approach to recreation, and Paddlefest is not just a unique approach to recreation,” said Van Dam, who nominated the annual summer festival for its award.
“Part of the reason Paddlefest started was to raise awareness of the recreation value of the Slave River and to help protect it as a recreational venue. Rather than just watching people say, ‘Oh you know this is a waterway people use,’ they went out and got lots of people to use it.”
The festival has been running for about seven years and while Van Dam said it could have been recognized much earlier, concentrated efforts to make the event inclusive for both professional paddlers and young families have taken the festival to another level.
“It’s impossible to do this without the support of so many other volunteers,” said Côté, the festival coordinator. “It’s a big honour for the Fort Smith Paddling Club; it’s been so active this year.”
Paddlefest shared the Innovation Award with the new Tumivut program based in Ulukhaktok, which brings the community together through traditional forms of recreation.
This year’s NWTRPA Award of Excellence went to the NWT Judo Association, while the Scott McAdam Youth Leadership Award went to Inuvik’s Jacob Peffer.
In the continued spirit of community and volunteerism, Côté returned home from Yellowknife on Oct. 9 with Green’s award, who was unable to attend the function as she was busy packing for her move.
The winners were gifted works by Northern photographer Dave Brosha.