Empowering youth through leadership development, confidence building, and community engagement
“To see other people try and succeed, ask for help, ask questions, and have fun.” That’s what a member of Spirit North’s Youth Leadership program had to say when asked to describe why participation in this program was so rewarding.
Canmore-based Spirit North is using the transformative power of sport to empower the lives of Indigenous youth and their communities. Focused on active, land-based activities, Spirit North’s programs are designed to improve leadership skills, support mental and physical wellness, and deepen community engagement.
Locally, Spirit North operates programs in Canmore, Exshaw, and Mini Thni. In 2022-23, over 352 youth participated, up from 218 the year before. That’s an increase of over 60 per cent — and they’re still growing.
“Spirit North is doing inspiring work in the Bow Valley,” says Cathy Geisler, Executive Director of the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation. “Our donation helps support their incredible growth, helping to ensure more youth can access their vital programs, have fun, and for many, become the next generation of leaders.”
Along with funding initiatives across the organization, a recent $70,000 donation from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation will also help support and enhance their Youth Leadership Program. The Foundation has donated a total of $140,000 since 2022.
Through sport-specific training and mentorship opportunities, the Youth Leadership Program is equipping participants with the necessary skills and certifications to become leaders with Spirit North. This build-it-forward model is designed to encourage other youth to join, learn new sports, remain active, and find success by facing challenges head-on.
“It was tough going climbing, there was a risk that I would fall,” said one student. “But then I got to the top and it made me feel like a new person. Ever since then I felt like I didn’t need to be scared anymore.”
During the 2022-23 academic year, two students from the Mini Thni community took part in the program at Canmore Collegiate High School. Now officially certified, the 15- and 16-year-olds have been with Spirit North since the program began in 2017 and will now help lead programs this summer.
“Support from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation allows us to offer year-round land-based sports, activities, and a Youth Leadership programming to Indigenous children and youth in the Bow Valley,” said Beckie Scott, Founder and CEO Spirit North. “This funding positively impacts the lives of hundreds of marginalized, vulnerable youth — giving them the life-changing opportunity to learn, grow, thrive and succeed through participation.”
Nationally, Spirit North delivered programs to over delivered programs to over 13,000 Indigenous youth in 102 communities and 182 schools, across Canada in 2023. As the organizations grows, additional communities will have access to their transformative programs. By fostering personal growth and encouraging fun, active engagement with other youth, these programs help build a strong foundation for the future leaders of the community.