Who We Are
Working co-operatively with schools and communities, Spirit North engages children in regular sport programming, providing them with outdoor exercise and activity designed to maximize physical and mental health.
Delivering regular outreach programming to students in their own communities and schools, Spirit North uses a collaborative play-based approach to engage children in sport and land-based activities.
Our programs are designed to be active, inclusive and participation-focused as they build and develop skills that can be transferred back in to the classroom and the community.
Recognizing that the most successful programs are community led and owned, Spirit North works diligently to guide and assist communities in transitioning from introductory program delivery to community-led sustainable programming.
Together with our partners, we do this through providing coaching resources and certification, competitive event support, trail development, and assistance with long-term equipment ownership.
Mission & Vision
Spirit North is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children and youth through the transformative power of sport and play.
We believe every child deserves a chance to dream – and the confidence to pursue that dream. Our vision is to break down the racial and socio-economic barriers facing Indigenous children, youth, and their communities. We use sport to empower students and build skills that can enhance every part of their lives.
Spirit North was founded in 2009 to introduce Indigenous youth to cross-country skiing and the fundamental joy of movement. We began with four participating communities. Today, Spirit North works in more than 30 Indigenous communities and reaches about 6,000 children and youth every year.
Indigenous youth are one of Canada’s fastest-growing demographic groups, and they face enormous challenges. Less than 50 per cent of on-reserve students complete high school. Indigenous youth are 5-7 times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youth. Substance abuse and serious health issues, such as obesity and diabetes, are a daily reality.
Community leaders and teachers understand how to empower kids to do what’s best for themselves, their peers, families, and communities. Spirit North is proud to be a partner in this transformation. An afternoon on skis can give children a glimpse of their own potential. It builds skills and helps them to learn and grow. Sport provides physical, mental and social connections that can inspire meaningful, lifelong change.
Thanks to our generous sponsors, Spirit North programs are free for Indigenous children and their school communities.
Meet The Team
Board of Directors
Barbara serves as senior strategic counsel on a broad portfolio of clients and has 20 years marketing and communications experience in a range of sectors including energy, financial services, retail, pharmaceutical, loyalty, non-profit and government. Barbara holds a B.Sc. (Hons) and an MBA from Queen’s University. She has also attended Executive Business School at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University.
Kikino Elementary School Principal Laurie Thompson is a life-long resident of the Kikino Métis Settlement, and embraced the Spirit North program for her school over five years ago. She actively initiated an after-school ski club, developed a leadership component to the program, and encouraged families and community members to become involved. Students in the program now compete in events across Alberta. Laurie was recently named one of Shaw’s 50 Outstanding Canadians.
Andy is a seasoned business owner in sustainable development, clean technology, and renewable energy in small, remote communities across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. A longtime volunteer in cross-country skiing, events and trail building, Andy loves nothing more than having fun outside while learning (he even volunteered to work with us!). In the summer, he can be found biking, paddling, and attempting to catch some elusive fish.
As an experienced and passionate non-profit leader, Rob has a successful history of innovation, collaborative leadership, and relationship building with proven management, communication, political and business acumen, and fundraising abilities. He has also delivered community-based programs at the local, regional, and international level for various NGOs. Rob is a passionate naturalist, outdoor enthusiast, skier, hiker, and avid fly fisherman. He moved to the Bow Valley in order to lead the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. Prior to that, he held various positions as a project lead, engaging volunteers, helping groups work together, and developing programs for youth at risk.
A pediatrician who works part-time in Yellowknife doing general pediatrics and travel clinics for a variety of communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Dr. Wong is also a part-time hospital pediatrician at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, where he does inpatient care four weeks a year. Conducting travel clinics in Saddle Lake and High Level in northern Alberta, Dr. Wong was most recently the chair of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee of the Canadian Pediatric Society.