The Toronto Blue Jays Care Foundation and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band have teamed up to offer local kids what promises to be a baseball filled summer.
As part of the partnership, kids in the tri-community area will take part in the Rookie League, which is a program designed by the foundation to help children and youth in marginalized communities gain baseball-related skills and experiences.
Teams will be set up in La Ronge, Sucker River, Little Red River, Stanley Mission, Grandmother’s Bay and Hall Lake.
The teams will play home and away games throughout the summer with the host providing the game meal as part of creating a better sense of community.
LLRIB Education Director Simon Bird is helping set up the program.
He says getting the full attention of youth can be a challenge these days as they face many distractions including social media.
“The trick is to try and get the youth to buy into the program and make it their own,” Bird says.
High school students are being recruited to help organize the games and people of all ages are encouraged to come out.
A point system will also be utilized.
People who help serve the meals and help pump-up the crowd will be scored accordingly.
Elders can also accumulate points for showing up and providing a prayer.
If a participant isn’t particularity athletic, Bird says there will be other roles they can perform such as creating banners and logos.
People can also help out with food preparation.
“At the end of the year, there is a team that wins and through the efforts and fundraising of the First Nation, they get to send the team to actually watch the Blue Jays,” Bird says. “The Blue Jays organization will donate the tickets and they’ll even have them up in the box seats and give them time on the jumbo T.V.”
Bird notes that the initiative isn’t so much about competition but more about building a sense of community.
This particular initiative got underway after the La Ronge area made news headlines in 2016 due to a youth suicide crisis.
The reports caught the attention of the Jays Care Foundation who thought it would be a good opportunity to bring a positive sports program to the area.
The program was officially announced in early January.
The Jays Care Foundation says its mission is to “use baseball to teach life skills and create lasting social change for children and youth in marginalized communities across Canada.”
The foundation has had over 65,000 youth across Canada participate in its various programs.
(PHOTO: Kevin Roberts (left), Chief Tammy Cook-Searson (centre) and Simon Bird (right) at the official announcement of the partnership between LLRIB and the Jays Care Foundation. Photo courtesy of Jays Care Foundation Twitter page.)