Winnipeggers are known to handle cold weather as well as anyone. On January 13th, a group of Winnipeg newcomers caught on to that mentality as they braved the -20 C-plus-wind-chill weather for a day of winter activities at Camp Manitou.
The event, Welcome to Winnipeg, was hosted by the True North Youth Foundation (TNYF), and brought 60 Canadian newcomers from countries as far away as Syria, Afghanistan, and India, to Camp Manitou to experience the great game of hockey and have the opportunity to skate for the first time.
“The vast majority of people had not skated before, so we used many of our EZ Skater devices to assist them with balance,” said Camp Manitou Director, Rick Bochinski.
The idea for the event was sparked by a grant that the TNYF received from the NHL and NHL Players Association (NHLPA) to introduce new Canadians to the sport of hockey. The TNYF connected with several groups in Winnipeg that help newcomers get settled in the city, including the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) and the Seven Oaks Neighbourhood Settlement, to make the event happen.
“The NHL and NHLPA really want to see the creation of more fans. We were able to introduce these newcomers to the Jets, and also to a piece of Canadian culture.”
Even though frigid temperatures are a new reality for many of the newcomers, Bochinski said the group came dressed for the weather and were ready to snowshoe, cross-country ski, and toboggan. Indoor floorball offered a chance to warm up, as did activities and hot chocolate inside the camp’s main lodge.
“It is helpful when we have other activities organized, and partners who to do activities with us to bring other types of experiences to our families,” said Tamatu Shokpeka of IRCOM. “If you are new to Canada, you aren’t exposed to all of these sports and activities that take place. You don’t even know they exist or how to access them. So, when they find all these different types of events, they get to learn how to do them, they fight their fear of the new things, and they are really having fun.”
In addition to the opportunity to skate, all participants received tickets to an upcoming Jets game, and a $25 Jets Gear gift card.
Following the inaugural event, Camp Manitou hosted two additional Welcome to Winnipeg sessions this winter. All in all, around 120 new Winnipeggers were introduced to the fun of winter sports and the True North Youth Foundation looks forward to continuing the program next year.