Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

GAMES DAY FRIDAY LAUNCH – Members of the Arctic Winter Games and City of Whitehorse staff are seen gathered at city hall for the Launch of Games Day Friday promotion on Sept. 13.

Games Day Friday T-shirts support Kids Recreation Fund

In five months, nine contingents from the circumpolar North will descend upon Whitehorse for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG).

By John Tonin on October 8, 2019

In five months, nine contingents from the circumpolar North will descend upon Whitehorse for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG). To help get people across the territory excited, the AWG Host Society has been holding Games Day Friday.

Every second Friday, running through February, local businesses and their staff will have the chance to win prizes and a visit from the official 2020 AWG mascot, Däch'äw. Games Day Friday crews will be hitting the streets on the lookout for those wearing their AWG gear.

As part of the promotion, Sports Experts created a special Games Day Friday T-shirt, which cost $10, for businesses to order. All proceeds from sales of those T-shirts will go directly to the 2020 AWG, with $1 from each purchase being donated to a ticket fund for youth who can’t afford to attend the Games. The tickets will be distributed through Sport Yukon’s Kids Recreation Fund.

The Kids Recreation Fund, established in 1999, provides Yukon families with financial hardship with the opportunities to participate in sport, art, cultural, social and recreational programs.

The territorial Health and Social Services Department funds a large portion of the programs along with the sport and recreation branch.

In 2018-19, the Kids Recreation Fund aided 763 youth across the territory.

The Arctic Winter Games were last held in the Yukon in 2012. The 2020 Games will be even larger since it’s the event’s 50th anniversary. Tracey Bilsky, the executive director of Sport Yukon, said it's an exciting opportunity for the youth in the Kids Recreation Fund program to have the chance to attend the Games.

"It's such an exciting opportunity because it's something beyond their regular sport and recreation activities that we fund them for," said Bilsky. "Kids from low-income families have to be careful where they are budgeting their dollars. They are kids that don't get the opportunities to go and see the Games."

The money raised from the T-shirt sales will go toward the purchase of a Super-pass. The pass is valid for the duration of the Games and good for all 14 venues and all 21 sports.

"It feels like an extra perk for all of our families that we serve," said Bilsky.

Bilsky said the Kids Recreation Fund did not need to lobby to receive the funds.

"I think that's been an important philosophy of the host society for 2020 to make sure that everybody feels like these are their games," said Bilsky. "From every community, from every culture, they are including everyone. This is that extra step to include those kids.

"We are so appreciative the host society chose the Kids Recreation Fund and be able to give these kids an extra little boost."

Moira Lassen, the general manager of AWG 2020, was involved with the Kids Recreation Fund when it started when she worked at Sport Yukon.

"It is near and dear to my heart, and I know the benefits it has for the youth," said Lassen. "When the Kids Recreation Fund first developed, it affected change right away and you saw it."

Lassen said the Host Society wants to ensure everyone who wants to be involved in the Games can be.

"Not everyone has the access to disposable income so this way, they can participate if they can't volunteer or can't be on the team they can participate in the Games as a spectator."

Both Bilsky and Lassen said they hope the kids who receive passes will find the Games inspirational.

"To have them be able to watch some of the Arctic Winter Games sports here in town, maybe they will get a little bit of inspiration in the future if they stick to the programs and they're committed who knows, in two or four years down the road they could be one of those AWG athletes representing Team Yukon," said Bilsky.

"They might see a sport and say, ‘I want to be involved in that and find out how to get involved,’" said Lassen.

Across all the Games, regardless of city, there has been a Games Wear Friday, but because these are a milestone AWG, Lassen said the host society wanted to do something even more festive.

Lassen said the Games are a large influence on the communities that hold them.

"The Games do affect a lot of people's lives," said Lassen. "They're about the northern culture and development. Not just as athletes and cultural delegates but as human beings and the Kids Recreation Fund does that as well."

The Games, to be held from March 15-21, will have 2,000 participants, 3,000 volunteers and an estimated 10,000 spectators. The Super-pass will be good for the child and the parent.

Both Bilsky and Lassen don't have a set goal for the number of passes they'd like to give out but said they would like to get as many as possible to the youth.

Bilsky said they can't wait to give the passes to the young people.

"The most exciting thing is that we will get to tell our clients that they will get to experience this and we will have to make sure we soup them up a little bit," said Bilsky.

How the passes will be distributed is still undecided Bilsky said, but they hope to do so well in advance of the start of the Games so the recipients can plan accordingly.

With the Games creeping ever closer, Lassen said, she can feel the excitement building in Whitehorse and across the territory.

"I felt a turning point go over," said Lassen. "We've been working on it for some time now from paperwork, conceptualizing and planning, so it was all kind of flat. Now it's come alive, people are wearing their shirts and everyone is happy and there is the mascot."

Games Day Fridays are not central to Whitehorse. Businesses in other communities are encouraged to participate and a website has been created so the T-shirts can be purchased with shipping available worldwide.

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