NESKANTAGA FIRST NATION – A trip of a lifetime is nearing for 30 youths from Neskantaga First Nation.
The group of mostly high-school-aged students will be travelling to Toronto from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 to attend the National Hockey League’s All-Star Weekend and also see other attractions in southern Ontario.
Chief Chris Moonias said the trip is something he and the Neskantaga First Nation Council, along with the community’s education director Tony Sakanee, have been working on for over a year.
“When we found out that the All-Star Game was going to be in Toronto, we thought something like that could work for the youth in our area to experience,” Moonias said. “We figured, ‘You know what, let’s just try it and see how far it goes.'
“Sure enough, we were able to get some tickets and we’ve had some various help along the way here to get things going.”
While most of the youth are hockey players, there are some students going on the trip who aren’t involved in the sport.
“The main thing we want them to do is go and experience an event where you watch some elite athletes and maybe that helps to encourage them to look into positive and healthy lifestyles, especially as the northern communities have one of the highest rates for diabetes,” Moonias said.
In addition to seeing the best hockey players in the world, the trip is also slated to include visits to places like t the CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, and Niagara Falls if time allows.
“For a lot of them, they’ve gone as far as maybe Thunder Bay and that’s it,” Moonias said.
“We want them to experience as much as they can and also show them that there’s more to life than just being on the reserve.”
While tickets for All-Star Weekend, accommodations and airline tickets are already purchased, Neskantaga First Nation currently has a GoFundMe set up to help with remaining costs for meals, ground transportation and admission to other events and attractions for the youth.
“It would be nice to get the $100,000 that we have set up as our goal, but we appreciate whatever people can donate,” Moonias said. “Every little bit helps.
“I just want to thank anyone who has provided support or will be providing support for this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Those who are looking to contribute directly to the trip’s organizing committee can contact Matawa First Nations Management.