by Skyler Isaac
For the sporting community in the Kwanlin Dün First Nation subdivision of McIntyre, the local baseball diamond is a “field of dreams” for their little leaguers.
It’s a decent size, even if the batters’ boxes are a bit cozy. The fence is well-loved, and families have gotten used to squeezing onto the bleachers as the crowds have grown bigger over the years.
That’s good news for the sport, but eventually it was apparent that the ball diamond was in need of some “TLC”.
Enter Jays Care Foundation, of Toronto Blue Jays fame. Plans are already underway to renew the McIntyre baseball diamond according to Softball Yukon’s regulations.
What can a cool $53,505 grant get you? How about new fencing, new bleachers, a batting cage and even a pitching machine – oh, and some nice surprises, like a trip to the Jays’ home pitch in Toronto for some lucky players.
The first part of this process was a ceremonial dirt exchange between the Kwanlin Dün Community and Rogers Centre baseball diamonds. Taking place on June 23, young baseball players were joined by representatives from Kwanlin Dün and Jays Care.
In order to complete this ceremony, Robert Wichel – Executive Director of the Jays Care Foundation – extracted some dirt from around the home plate at Rogers Centre, the arena that the Jays call home.
This dirt was then planted near the home plate at the Kwanlin Dün diamond. In exchange, some of the youth gathered up dirt from the old diamond and planted it at Rogers Centre. One of them was even granted the opportunity to throw the first pitch at a Blue Jays game.
A tip of the baseball cap goes to the Executive Director of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Roxanne Vallevand, for securing the renovation funds.
“We really want to see our kids playing baseball in our community,” she said in an interview with CBC News, “what we’ve really been lacking is a field that is useable.”
Ahead of the event, Jays Care reached out to local rapper Jeremy Linville to write and perform a song at the ceremony. It centred around how the Jays Care Foundation could assist with local reconciliation efforts, and how young kids can discover that through sports.
“We spoke, and kicked some ideas around,” Linville recalled. “It seemed really well received, so I think I did pretty good,” say’s Linville.
It’s the Foundation’s generosity and willingness to help that drew the rapper to them.
“That means a lot to me, actually to know that they are willing to come up here and give Kwanlin Dün so much money just for sports and for better buildings,” Linville said. “Funds are hard to come by”, he continued, especially in some First Nation communities. “We all know that they need it. That’s basically why it means a lot to me, because they’re helping the nations I want to help. If they’re going to be doing that, I’ll stand beside them.”
Linville’s song, “The Field of Dreams,” will be used to promote the Jays Care Foundation and the work that they do. While in the Territory, Jays Care had the chance to partner with Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office. One of the resulting
initiatives was Whitehorse’s own Rookie League, part of Jays Care’s Foundation Baseball-For-Development Program.
For the children who aren’t being listened to, for the children whose rights are being withheld – this outlet is for them.
“As a child and youth advocate, my job is to promote the rights of children and youth in government services,” says Annette King, one of the Office’s executives. Through the Rookie League, “kids can participate, can lead, can learn more about their culture, and can use sport as a way to build resiliency,” she explained. “As life challenges come to them, they will have more strength to be able to manage through them.”
The Rookie League is also the first-ever project led by youth that the Foundation has undertaken. Four Indigenous youth make up the advisory committee that decided what they wanted from this partnership with the Blue Jays.
King is optimistic that with some help, youth are strong enough to overcome obstacles, build healthy, happier lives, and make connections with the broader world.
“We think kids this age are the smartest kids around, they are our future leaders.”
We really want to see
our kids playing baseball
in our community