Anishnabeg Outreach Sports Program “Changes the Story for Indigenous Youth”

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When Chae McCallum saw the big smile on her seven-year-old son’s face while donning a Blue Jays t-shirt and a foam bat, she knew she had made the right choice to enroll her son in the Anishnabeg Outreach multisport program for young people.

McCallum’s son, who suffers from ADHD, thrived in the Anishnabeg Outreach multi-sport youth program, meeting new children, caring for and learning the value of teamwork.

“It’s been so beneficial for him,” McCallum says. “I know my son, he doesn’t like to lose anything, but this program really gave him the basics of sportsmanship and teamwork.

Laine Padovan, program coordinator, says that is the goal. “The same kids go out and make friendships, and I see a lot of positivity and teamwork.”

The program is run by Anishnabeg Outreach, an Indigenous community organization in Kitchener that offers reconciliation training, early childhood programs, healing rituals, and athletic programs for adults and youth.

The multi-sport youth program is aimed at Indigenous youth aged 6 to 12 and takes place on Mondays and Saturdays. The organization also offers floor hockey on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will be launching an ice hockey program this winter. As part of the program, children receive free materials.

Indigenous Wellness and Healing Services Director Jessica Kewageshig says sport plays a critical role in Indigenous healing.

“We want our sports program to change the discourse for aboriginal youth,” Kewageshig said. “Sport is a vehicle for the positive development of young people. Some Aboriginal youth are unable to participate due to circumstances beyond their control. So we want to create an environment where sport participation works.

McCallum notes that sport brings people together, saying, “Sport brings community together, and it’s healing.”

For this reason, sport has always been part of Anishnabeg Outreach’s long-term vision, Kewageshig says.

“Participation in sports has a ripple effect that translates into several undeniable positive results,” says Kewageshig. “Our vision started with sport as part of the long term outcome, and we are very happy that we were able to launch this program and deliver it to the Indigenous community.”

For more information on Anishnabeg Outreach’s multi-youth sports program, visit https://aocan.org

The Story Behind The Story: After connecting with Indigenous organizations in the Waterloo region, journalist Genelle Levy wanted to write about initiatives that empowered Indigenous youth.


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