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Raise Awareness golf tourney enters fourth year

Thursday June 12, 2014
Wawatay file photo

The Raising Awareness Together golf tournament is set to take place on June 27 in Thunder Bay.

The fourth annual Raise Awareness Together golf tournament is set to tee off on June 27 in Thunder Bay.

Mike McKay and Travis Boissoneau began the tournament four years ago in the hopes of raising awareness on prescription drug abuse which has plagued First Nations communities in northern Ontario.

“At the time we started this tournament, there was no one really talking about the issue,” said McKay, a member of Bearskin Lake. “It’s just one of those things where you see family friends going through these struggles, you wanna help out but you know you want to do something.”

The volunteer-led tournament will take place at the Whitewater Golf Course.

Since its inception, the tournament has raised $13,400 towards the drug treatment and aftercare program at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay.

“In speaking with principal Jon Kakegamick, he’s happy with progress of the program,” said Boisonneau, a member of Garden River. “To be at the forefront and to be honest, we’re certainly happy to be associated with that program. It takes a lot of courage for the students wanting to succeed and to seek treatment.”

So far, 16 teams of four players have registered for the tournament. The organizers hope to have at least 25 teams take part, if not the goal of 30 teams. Those interested can register by June 20, though the organizers said anyone can register on the day of the tournament. It has a fee of $600 per team or $150 for an individual.

This year the tournament will feature Wab Kinew as the special guest and keynote speaker at the tournament dinner.

A journalist and movitational speaker, Kinew is best known for hosting CBC’s 8th Fire TV series.

“We made a request and he immediately volunteered his time,” McKay said. “He is sensitive to the same issue as we are. He’s out there, he’s a prominent First Nations, well-spoken man that’s done good things for our people.”

Since the first tournament, McKay said it evolved not only in participation and funds raised, but the subject of prescription drug abuse is more talked about.

“When we started, there was no one talking about it. Now people and communities are talking about it. I find when I talk with people from First Nations,” McKay said. “Now we just want to keep raising awareness on this issue and keep talking about it, because it hasn’t gone away.”

And while all proceeds will go towards DFC’s programs, Boisonneau said he hopes the tournament will create more discussion and awareness.

“Funding for suboxone programs, there’s potential for that to end,” he said. “The consequences of that ending could be dire. They may have to travel outside their communities or they can fall into old habits.”

Boisonneau would like to hear communities continue to have and support similar drug and aftercare programs. He feels the problem has diminished over the years, but knows it is still out there.

“You hear the stories about people talking about before the programs, and there’s been dramatic changes,” he said. “There’s not 100 per cent success rate, I would imagine, but there is some success. For governments to limit or cancel funding, it would add to the problem.”

“A goal is to raise awareness, not only to the general public but the government has to be constantly reminded, conversation have to continue and communities have to find ways to adapt and develop resources.”

The organizers also welcome any donations from individuals, organizations or corporations.
“We ask organizations to donate, acknowledge the event is happening,” Boissoneau said. “And we have to continue discussions.”

Those interested in donating or registering can e-mail:

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