''the kids of the Ktunaxa Nation Hockey Program pose at Kinsmen Arena.

''the kids of the Ktunaxa Nation Hockey Program pose at Kinsmen Arena.

­Ktunaxa Nation Hockey Program launches

On Friday, October 7th, the Ktunaxa Nation Hockey Program launched.

  • Oct. 19, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Josh Lockhart

Grab your kyxukciyamu and let’s play some kyxukciyam!

On Friday, October 7th, the Ktunaxa Nation Hockey Program launched. It was a dream project carried out by family support worker Darcy Fisher and social worker Marie Laska from Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Child & Family Services.

“There was a lot of dreaming,” Fisher said. “This is a dream that I have had since I started family support with Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Child and Family Services.”

“Hockey was always a part of my life growing up, so to bring that opportunity to my two children and our community members is something that [has] really taken fruition nicely.”

For Laska, it all started with “a love for sports and a strong appreciation that sports are integral to building life skills for children and families.”

The program was able to dress over 20 children and youth in complete hockey gear and secure ice-time until March 2017. This was made possible by grant support from viaSport and JumpStart, plus support from Sport Chek, the Calgary Hitmen and Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS).

But for Laska it just wasn’t the financial support that made the launch of the program a success.

“This brought together members of the community who could support the program, who had hockey or skating experience,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the community — for taking all the steps along the way of getting people on board, to get excited, having people responding — it would never have happened.”

Fisher, who was recently elected to Chief and Council for the ?Akisq’nuk First Nation, added “I have been waiting for this, to get the people out there and get the health and wellness routine into their lifestyle.

“To be able to support youth is the biggest thing we want to do. These kids are out there smiling, laughing and having fun playing hockey. It is pretty awesome.”

Doreen Clement was one of the parent’s in attendance watching her son Kezdin play.

“This is great, [it’s] exciting and excellent for the community. I’m happy that all the parents that came to support.”

Children and youth with Ktunaxa ancestry came from ?aq’am and Cranbrook to the Kinsmen Arena to play. Some knew how to skate, but many did not and were learning for the first time. However, the goal of the program isn’t just about learning how to skate and play, it is about the life skills that will be learned in providing a healthy option for after school play.

“You are having fun with your peers while doing it, that is first and foremost above all,” Fisher said of the main goals of the program. “Second is healthy activity. After school hours are sometimes the most vulnerable. To give them a healthy option is paramount to their future.”

Clement said “some of the kids sit at home and some may not know what to do with their time. This is getting them out, getting exercise and they are meeting people that they don’t always interact with. They are out here and helping each other out. It’s great.”

Laska added that having the chance to be mentors and build leadership skills is another goal of the program.

Those goals may have been met on the first day alone. Kezdin, who is taking a mentor role because of his experience playing hockey since age five said, “I get to help my friends learn how to skate.”

“We don’t do this every day. I get to hang out with my friends and play some hockey.”

But he summed it up in one word: “Fun.”

“When you see the families coming out, that is what it is about,” Laska said, “It is something that is a wonderful thing, promoting a community bond, through hockey.”

The program started with a dream and it will grow.

“This is ground zero,” Laska said. “Skill building, teamwork, and realizing that they have an ability to connect with something bigger than themselves. This is something that is special, that they can grow with.”