Youth build outdoor rink in We’koqma’q

WHYCOCOMAGH: The community of We’koqma’q has a new skating surface thanks to some ambitious local youth.

In January, members of the Youth Eagle Program came together to build a new outdoor ice rink at the community’s ball field. We’koqma’q band councillor Steven Googoo started the group last October to empower First Nations youth and encourage them to get involved in their community.

“We met shortly after Christmas, sometime in early January, and that’s where the whole idea came from,” said Googoo.  “We sit down and we brainstorm together. What can we do for the community? Or what do we want to do next week? We sort of plot our schedule.”

Googoo said the idea to build a rink at the local ball field came from one of the group’s youngest members, 11-year-old Lucky Basque. Googoo was intrigued by the idea because the field is equipped with outdoor lighting.

“It’s really a place for kids to go at night,” he said.

Googoo said the other Youth Eagles were happy to pitch in, and work began on the project two weeks later.

“What’s really good about this program is that it’s very supportive,” said Googoo. “One has a good idea and I’ll ask everyone if they want to do it, and they’ll say ‘yeah, let’s do it.’”

Approximately 30 youth gathered at the ball field to lay down the rink. The group also received some support from a community member who helped to plough the area with his four-wheeler.

“The day we picked, we had a storm. We had a bunch of snow falling, then it turned into rain, then there was ice and freezing rain. So we did it on that stormy night,” said Googoo.

“We started about two in the afternoon and we didn’t finish until about seven or eight at night.”

Although changeable temperatures have prevented the rink from being used just yet, Googoo says he checks on it regularly, and the local fire department is keeping it filled with water. Despite the weather, Googoo says the project has been a success for the youth who saw it through from start to finish.

“These are kids between 11 and 18 that came together one night to get off the Xbox, to get off the TV, to get out of their house, and they all walked down to the ball field with their shovels,” said Googoo. “It was really about the teamwork behind it, and the unity that we built among these kids.”

Members of the Youth Eagle Program have been busy since they started meeting in the fall.  Last week, Googoo said they were preparing for a visit from internationally recognized Mi’kmaq arm wrestler Trevor Sanipass, as well as a trip to see the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Currently, the group has around 60 members, but Googoo says there is always room for more.

“We are constantly recruiting,” he said. “I encourage new youth to join us to participate or even just come observe one of our weeks to see what we do.”