Walking To Attawapiskat

Well, we’re off!
At the end of June, the long awaited playground will arrive in Attawapiskat!
The final details are being co-ordinated and in just a few short weeks, we’ll be there, on James Bay, working side-by-side with the community to construct a Little Tikes playground!

Last fall, Wes (our 12-year-old son) won a $25k Pepsi Refresh grant  for his idea of making sure the kids from this remote northern community had a safe place to play. Pepsi Canada has been a phenomenal partner, and we couldn’t be happier with the awesome, ongoing support they have provided. Pepsi truly cares about making a difference in Canada’s communities. We are witnesses of that fact, and Attawapiskat will be the recipient of their kindness. Thank you Pepsi.

Soon after winning the grant, we realized that playgrounds (especially in remote northern communities) cost much more than $25,000. Much more.

Just this past month, Little Tikes bought into Wes’s vision of building a playground in every remote northern community that doesn’t have one – beginning with Attawapiskat!
Their generosity in the form of discounts and donations (for this build alone) totals to approximately $25,000!

AirCreebec (our favorite airline ever) has once again offered flights for Wes, his mom and I (dad). They have been outstanding, generous and amazing on each of our trips up to James Bay. Thank you AirCreebec!

Even with the generosity of Pepsi, Little Tikes and AirCreebec, $10,000 is still needed to complete the playground.

In an attempt to raise the $10k by June 26th, Wes has decided to walk to Attawapiskat. Allow me to explain:
Between Niagara Falls and  Attawapiskat is a distance of 1,587kms. Wesley and a team of three others will walk everyday until their total kilometers reach 1,587.
Be a part of this historic walk by sponsoring Wes’s Team with $10.00
Our goal is to have 1000  a part of this playground build. The community is doing their part by constructing the playground. Wes is doing his part by walking everyday. Would you consider doing your part by clicking here?

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An Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, INAC Minister John Duncan and the Candidates in My Area

Today is the National Day of Action for Shannen’s Dream.

Shannen Koostachin is someone I consider to be a hero, someone who every Canadian kid can look at as a role model.

If she was still alive, I think we would have been very good friends.

Shannen is from Attawapiskat, a remote First Nations reserve along James Bay. When Shannen was in grade 8, she and a few of her friends decided not to go to Toronto and Niagara Falls like every other grade 8 class before her. Instead, she went to Ottawa to ask the government for a real school. Something she had never known.

When the J.R. Nakogee Elementary School was built in 1979, there was a huge diesel spill from broken pipes right under the school. For years, right up to 2000, the kids went to class with 100,000 litres of diesel right below them. Obviously, kids were constantly sick with headaches, nosebleeds and nausea. Can you imagine having to go to school knowing that you will be inhaling diesel fumes all day and will probably have another nosebleed in class?

It wasn’t until the student’s parents pulled them all out of school and refused to send them back that the government agreed to do something.

They put up portable classrooms and promised to build a new school. That was now 11 years ago. Since then three promises to build a school have not been kept and the kids still meet in portables.

I went to school for a day in Attawapiskat and had the honour of spending a few hours talking with Shannen’s parents. What I learned was this: my parents or any of my friend’s parents would not send me to J.R. Nakogee School if they had a choice. But I guess that’s the problem. My Attawapiskat friends don’t have a choice. If they want any kind of education, they have to go to school in portables. Portables where the doors don’t close properly allowing mice and cold in. Portables that are now covered in black mould under the floors.

They use the arena for a gym. So – every time it’s time for gym class, the kids have to put their coats, boots and hats on and walk outside in the -40 degree weather. What’s worse is, after gym when they are all sweaty from running, they have to make the same walk back to their class. So – guess what? These kids still are getting sick. Just because they go to school.

Shannen Koostachin had spent her entire school life in these portables and was tired of it. She sacrificed her grade 8 year-end trip to confront the government once again and challenge them to keep their promise.

She died in a tragic car accident last year. She was 15.

I am not as old as she was. I am twelve. I can’t vote. But – I do have a voice, it’s not a big a voice as Shannen’s, but I have a voice.

And what I hope you as politicians realize is that in a couple of years my friends and I will be allowed to vote. And trust me, we will. And our voices will be even bigger.

Shannen’s Dream is a bill that was presented to the House of Commons last fall by my friend, Charlie Angus (NDP MP for Timmins/James Bay). This bill if passed, would make sure all First Nation kids have the same opportunities to an education that I have.

I don’t really understand why we need to pass a new bill to do the right thing, but if that’s what we have to do, then I guess that’s what we have to do.

I am writing this letter to encourage you to support Shannen’s Dream, Bill 571.

Discrimination in any form is wrong. Even I know that. Hopefully you will have the courage to support this bill, not because it was or wasn’t your party’s idea, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Good luck on May 2nd.

Wesley Prankard

Grade 7, Prince Phillip School


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You Have A Voice

Right now, I’m in Ottawa at the Unite and Ignite Conference for youth. I’m learning tons and meeting all kinds of people from all across Canada.
On Thursday night, I was honoured to be the kick-off keynote speaker. What I talked about was a pretty simple concept that a lot of adults don’t seem to get.
My message came from the theme of the movie, “Pay It Forward”

Here’s the scene I showed:


Now, like I said, I am in Ottawa and in fact was at Parliament yesterday. The day that we found out we’re going to have another election.
There are a lot of important ideas that will be talked about and maybe even decided in this election.
What I am going to do, and what I am asking you to do is this: Find an idea you are passionate about, then, put it into action – AND – talk to every candidate in your area to see what they will do about your idea if elected.

Shannen’s Dream is an idea I am passionate about. I have already talked with two of our candidates, Rob Nicholson and Bev Hodgson. I can also tell you that I will be speaking with them both a lot more as well as the other candidates.
Education is a right – and my friends in Attawapiskat and many other reserves are being denied their rights to the same rights that I have. That’s not fair. And it’s not right.

I can’t vote yet, but that doesn’t mean that Rob and Bev (and the other people I haven’t met yet)  won’t listen. They know that kids my age are the future and what I’m learning this week is: They are making decisions today that will affect me when I can vote.

My friends and I are becoming educatedon these things – more than my parents or grandparents were at my age. We are connected and we have a voice.

My challenge to you: It doesn’t matter if your a kid, an adult or a senior. You have a voice. Use it.

Dexterity Check! (That’s for my Unite and Ignite Peeps)

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Virtual Kids Are Heroes Day ~ Thursday!

A big Thank you to Gabe O’Neill and the good people at Magpi and Carleton University for scrambling to arrange a broadcast location for Wes while he’s in Ottawa this week.

Thursday, April 24th beginning at 1pm, Kids Are Heroes is hosting a Virtual Kids Are Heroes Day.
The event features 9 Kids from the Kids Are heroes website and will be broadcast from locations all across the U.S. and Canada.
The description from Magpi’s site:

Kids Are Heroes is an organization founded by a then 9-year-old girl named Mary Margaret. The Kids Are Heros website empowers children to give back to their communities by showcasing those who are changing the world. The organization’s goal is to have volunteerism become an everyday activity in the lives of children. It’s not just about doing good; we have discovered that this activity builds self esteem and shapes these youngsters into the leaders of tomorrow.

Program Description:

This program will feature several heroes from the Kids Are Heroes website who will each tell participants about their unique projects and the work they are doing in their community. Participants will also hear from Mary Margaret, the founder of Kids Are Heros, and the president of the organization today, Gabe O’Neill.

Videoconference Outline:

Introduction and Overview by Mary Margaret and Gabe O’Neill

Presentations by Heroes

Calista and Austin Pierce (Erie, Pennsylvani)

Gail Poulin (Southampton, Massachusetts)

Wes Prankard (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada)

Adele Taylor (Gloucester County, New Jersey)

JT Robertson (Cuba, New York)

Neha Gupta (Bucks County, Pennsylvania)

Dylan Mahalingam (Rockingham, New Hampshire)


Pre-Videoconference Activities:

Required: Have the students see the website and spend a good deal of time reading the stories of the heroes out loud in class. This might be done by having student volunteers select a hero, read their story and then say why they picked that particular hero.

Suggested: We also suggest that the student have a parent sit down with them at home and look over the stories. This might just spark a real activity that can be carried out with the support of the parent.

More information on the event (and the link to watch it live )can be found here http://www.magpi.net/Community/Programs/Kids-Are-Heroes

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Welcome 100 Huntley Street Viewers!

Welcome 100 Huntley Street Viewers!
To learn more about what Wesley is up to, please check out the links to the right under “Categories”.

Wesley will be camping out again this year during his March break. This time for 48 hours. Your support in the way of sponsorship is both needed and appreciated.
Follow this link to learn more.

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More Good News!

In case you missed “Always Good News With Connie Smith” on Friday – we’ve posted Wesley’s interview here for you.
Be inspired – then vote at: http://www.refresheverything.ca/playground4kash

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