More Than Just a Skating Rink: Altruistic Peers Strive for Change

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(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Fellow workers make efforts towards a better future for youth

By: Damon Hunter

Thursday,  November 15th was the official opening of the 2018-2019 season of skating at Naotkamegwanning’s Chi Key Wis Arena. It brought smiles, not just to skaters, but also to the people that made it possible.

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Local skaters participate in an open-skate held at the arena (Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Since the major reconstruction of the Chi Key Wis Arena four years ago, Mary-Anne Mooring has been the woman behind the scenes helping to make it happen.

Mooring is a longtime Power Engineer, with three decades of experience, including Chief Engineer at the old Winnipeg Arena which housed the Jets and Winnipeg Moose, and Assistant Chief Engineer at the University of Manitoba. She was also responsible for overhauling Kenora Recreational Centre and making their ice.

Mechanical work was what she specialized in for the most part. “I took care of all the physical plans,” she stated.

She expressed gratitude for her fellow workers Glen White, Everett Cowley, and CJ Gustafson. Without the band and council’s financial and motivational support, no such progress would be made, she explained.

Mooring says she is grateful for her partner Denise Lysak who writes some of the grants for Naotkamegwanning projects alongside her.

Everett Cowley is one of the first arena workers, employed there since day one, ‘from where it was just a few light bulbs working and natural ice’.

Prior to his current position, he had already been working at the arena before major changes took place, including removal of mold. His current job, maintaining the Zamboni and ice, is a critical one. Cowley commented that so far there haven’t been many problems and with everyone’s work contributions, things have been running very smoothly.

He related that his main motivation is the kids. He remarked that his grandson is an influence as well, stating that he provides a major incentive to do what Cowley does day by day.

(Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White (Left to right) Everett Cowley, Clement Gustafson, Mary-Anne Mooring, Glen White

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(Photo Credit: Damon Hunter)

Together as a group, the workers have been largely responsible for most of the grander changes around Whitefish Bay. Locations such as the new beach, the baseball diamond, and the basketball court are some of the their accomplishments and there will soon be a new skate park along with a conjoined bicycle track.

The goal, Mooring says, is to give the youth a chance at finding what they enjoy and to have something fun to do in their free time.

“We’re about making things better, not just taking care of ourselves,” she says. “It’s about the community.”

Many more projects are aspired for, the biggest being a whole new training facility for young athletes. Wrestling, hockey, and lacrosse are the prime targets as of now. Beach volleyball and a new fitness centre are also very much wanted.

“I know there’ve been some great athletes that could’ve come out of Whitefish Bay and they never had the courage to be able to do what they should’ve done,” Mooring said. “To become those athletes, they need a network for support.”

The following article was also published in the Kenora Daily Miner – The Enterprise in print and online. Available here

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“Love seeing their smiles”, says Naotkamegwanning fishing derby organizer dedicated to memorializing local resident

By: Damon Hunter

The 15th annual Whitefish Bay Fall Bass Classic was held on Oct. 6th-7th, this year in memory of the late Angela White — who sadly passed away from cancer last year.

Alana Merrick, a co-organizer of the annual fishing derby with the late White, says she has dedicated the next four years’ events in her memory.

“Angela was one of our lead organizers,” she said. “She was an avid fisherwoman”.

Angela, born in Dryden, Ontario and raised in Naotkamegwanning First Nation, was known for her work in the community including co-organizing a drug awareness walk and the Seven Grandfathers awards.

With coverage from 89.5 The Lake radio, the event attracted a large amount of participants and sponsors, including a donation from RBC Royal Bank to help fund the competition. Participants came from Northwestern Ontario, Manitoba and even Minnesota, USA.

The yearly event is completely non-profit, Merrick said, and the money made off of it is recycled for the next year’s event.

“Every cent goes to the tournament,” said Merrick. “Then we start all over again.”

Merrick said it makes her feel good hosting the event as a space for men and women of all ages and to observe the different bass species. She said the biggest unrecorded bass was 7lbs 10oz.

I love seeing their smiles and seeing their excitement.”

This year’s winners were Toowaas White and Damien Paypompee. They took first place with the heaviest catches consisting of nine smallmouth bass and one largemouth bass.

In second place, Erick Bennett and Jim Ducharme. Following in third, Dana Fast and Mike Miles.

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This year’s winners, Toowaas White and Damien Paypompee (Photo credit: Keith Merrick)

Toowas White from Naotkamegwanning, says he has been attending the Bass Classic for 14 years and won second place in 2011 with his father-in-law.

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Winners trophies (Photo credit: Keith Merrick)

Having spent much time with Angela and her family fishing, said the tournament’s dedication was deserved, considering her a “ staple at the docks and at the weigh-ins.”

“Our community had three great male/female teams compete year in and year out,” he said.”  Her passing had an affect on all the fishermen in the community”

Next year’s Fall Bass Classic is to be expected again early October.