Founded in 2014, ReachUp is a registered non-profit organization that runs ultimate frisbee training sessions to build confidence, inspire healthy and active lifestyles, and develop transferable skills in Indigenous children and youth.
The following five core values are at the heart of ReachUp’s model of community engagement.
- Partnership: We actively collaborate with local, provincial and national organizations seeking to improve the health and social outcomes of children and youth.
- Engagement: We honour local ‘on-the-ground’ leadership and recognize that ReachUp’s mandate can only be accomplished through the invitation and support of schools, associations and communities.
- Cultural sensitivity: Grounded in a posture of mutual respect and inclusion, we see frisbee as a tool for cultivating cross-cultural learning for both trainers and participants.
- Sustainability: We seek to identify and provide ongoing support to local frisbee champions who are passionate about seeing children and youth thrive.
- Fun: At its heart, frisbee is about the joy of running, throwing and catching with friends.
The concept for ReachUp began with a lunchtime conversation between Tony Jocko (Health Advisor with the Union of Ontario Indians) Alethea Kewayosh (Director for the Aboriginal Cancer Control Unit at Cancer Care Ontario), and her then-colleague Kirk Nylen. Cancer Care Ontario works to overcome high cancer incidence and mortality rates among Indigenous populations. An integral part of preventative health care is encouraging healthy, active lifestyles. As a frisbee player and coach with national profile, Kirk was keen to share his passion for the sport:
- Frisbee is an active sport with minimal equipment costs
- Girls and boys can play the sport together, even at the highest levels
- As a new sport, everyone is a learner together
- There is strong alignment between the Seven Sacred Teachings and frisbee’s Spirit of the Game
- Frisbee is supported by a large community of skilled volunteers
Tony, Alethea and Kirk quickly realized that ultimate frisbee could be a great fit. They decided to pilot frisbee trainings alongside a smoking cessation workshops at Lakeview Elementary school in M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island.
The kids were mesmerized by the flight of the frisbee, enthusiastically learned new skills in the trainings and demonstrated excitement for all elements of the sport. The response from their school, their community and our partners was also tremendous, so the partnership grew.
The Story of Clinton
The teachers said Clinton would not participate; he never did. He was overweight and uninterested in sports. After some encouragement from the trainers, he agreed to throw the frisbee and it unlocked a natural gift. He got more and more excited about the sport to the point where he was seen organizing a scrimmage during recess the following day. He didn’t want the workshop to end and ran every drill with passion. Clinton was proud of how well he did and the training helped build his self-esteem.
The Story of Kassandra
To put it mildly, Kassandra was unenthused by the description of ultimate and initial talk. She stood to the side as other kids ran through the drills and announced that she thought the sport was stupid. During the scrimmage at the end, she reluctantly agreed to throw with one of the coaches on the side of the field, but became more and more entranced. The flight to the disc unlocked her initial opposition to the workshop and the trainers. After nearly an hour of throwing, and with a huge smile on her face, it’s safe to assume that Kassandra will play again.