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Hundreds of students become Winter Warriors

Ernie Puglas of the Campbell River Indian Band blesses the Winter Warriors Youth Run/Walk Feb. 3 at Quinsam Campground.

Close to 200 students from School District 72 can proudly call themselves Winter Warriors after completing the Winter Warriors Youth Run/Walk on a cold and rainy morning earlier this week.

Students from École Phoenix Middle School and Robron Centre took part in the 5K Winter Warriors Run/Walk Feb. 3 at Quinsam Campground in Elk Falls Provincial Park, which was funded by the First Nations Health Authority and hosted by the North Island Metis Nation (NIMN).

Ernie Puglas of the Campbell River Indian Band and his family provided a blessing before the students did a warm up and took off to run or walk around the campground in the pouring rain.

“It’s all about winter wellness today,” said Kealy Donaldson, project co-ordinator for the NIMN. “We chose to do a wellness event inclusive of all nations.”

This was the first time the NIMN received funding to host the event, Donaldson said.

“It’s important to stay fit and healthy in wintertime,” she said. “It was an opportunity we saw through the First Nations Health Authority. We chose to work with youth to inspire and encourage embracing other cultures.

“From there, we approached the middle schools and Robron to participate. Overall, in society, we are dealing with obesity, which leads to diabetes and other diseases, so we are just trying to encourage kids to stay as active as they can during the winter.

“It’s all about staying fit.”

Donaldson said the middle schools were extremely receptive when she approached them, and it is one way School District 72 is embracing First Nations culture.

“The school district is working very hard to represent the cultural territories in the schools here by bringing cultural studies into the schools and having specialized studies at Robron,” she said.

Donaldson said BC Parks let NIMN use Quinsam Campground during the off-season, and she acknowledged the local partners who worked with NIMN to provide healthy snacks for the students, including Fresh Slice, Taco Del Mar and Booster Juice.