page contents

Spirit North: supporting Indigenous youth through sport and outdoor play

Spirit North has a powerful mandate: engage the power of land-based activities to empower Indigenous youth. A recent $70,000 donation from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation will help the Canmore-based organization build capacity to continue this mandate by increasing the number of programs they can offer.

Founded by Olympian Beckie Scott in 2009, Spirit North uses sport to change lives and transform communities for Indigenous youth. While sport and outdoor play is central to its programming, supporting education, community, and mental and physical wellness is the organization’s primary objective.

“We’ve really worked hard at Spirit North to help kids connect the dots between participating in activities and the leadership and life-skills that come along with that. The outcomes have been remarkable,” Scott says.

Spirit North gives students the chance to participate in cross-country skiing, mountain biking, running, canoeing, and other games and activities. Along with equipment, kids are provided with coaching, skill-development, and team-building opportunities.

About 6000 kids participate in Spirit North programs nationally. In the Bow Valley, over 100 youth are active in local programs. That number is expected to dramatically increase now that schools can begin offering field trips again. Locally, Spirit North collaborates with the Exshaw School, Nakoda Elementary School, and Morley Community School. With the loosening of pandemic restrictions, students are starting field trips and activities again. Pauw Foundation funding couldn’t come at a better time.

Spirit North

“We are happy to provide this donation in support of the strong work that Spirit North does to educate, inform, and support initiatives that keep kids and youth learning and playing outside. Spirit North’s commitment to outdoor activity not only builds stronger youth, it strengthens communities,” said Cathy Geisler, Executive Director at the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation

Aligned with their objective to promote healthy living, Spirit North is also committed to leading communities on the reconciliation journey. By ensuring equal access to the physical and mental health benefits associated with sports and outdoor play, the organization’s programs are designed to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

“Committed community leaders are the strength of Spirit North programs. Funding like this enables us to expand consistent programs to both support Indigenous youth and create work for coaches, educators, and athletes. This funding also provides much needed access to extra equipment, additional leaders, and transportation for youth,” says Ken Beatty, Chief Operating Officer at Sprit North.

The training Spirit North provides its youth leaders is essential for expanding the program. For youth, the ability to earn a wage as a leader in their community is an incredible incentive to commit to Spirit North programs.

Pauw Supports Spirit North

Tristan House, a Spirit North Community Program Leader from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, is thrilled to expand the number of programs available. “This donation gives us opportunities to improve our youth’s way of life through sport,” he said.

As a role model for Stoney Nakoda youth, House is keen to extend programs so that more youth can participate, eventually becoming program leaders themselves. By encouraging and training students to become youth leaders, Spirit North’s mentorship model is building a strong foundation for future, locally-focused programming.

“Funding from the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation will help us continue this journey of important work and making a difference in the lives of youth in the programs. We are tremendously grateful not only for the financial support, but for the partnership and belief in our vision as well,” said Scott.


Learn more about how the Wim and Nancy Pauw Foundation continues to support a more active, vibrant, and happy community.

Learn more about Spirit North

Wim & Nancy Pauw Foundation