Students from over two dozen schools participated in this year’s edition of The Great Prairie Race, coordinated by Northern Lights Movement for Kids (NLMFK). The race connects children from different communities and backgrounds in an effort to promote both activity and wellness, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Schools were challenged to sign up online to get out and clock kilometres in any fashion - hiking, snowshoeing, running. They then gathered virtually to celebrate their accomplishment and learn about each others’ experiences and cultures

“I’m so pleased that we had 27 school communities from across Canada’s prairie provinces who crossed the finish line of the Great Prairie Race this February,” said Celeste Leray-Leicht, architect of NLMFK. “We enjoyed meeting everyone who was able to attend the virtual meet yesterday. I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment to Reconciliation and to their own heart health.

This year’s racers amassed a total of 15,356 kilometres. That doesn’t include the community of La Ronge who partook in an 11 hour skate-a-thon on February 11 in support of the race. The length of the skate and the date honours the number 11, worn on the jersey of Humboldt Bronco, Jacob Leicht, Celeste’s son who was a tragic victim of the Broncos bus crash.

Bronco families from the prairie provinces pitched into the effort, registering their students from the schools in which they teach. Bernadine Boulet, Logan Boulet’s mom, had her Lethbridge based grade two students on hand as racers. Former Bronco Matt Gomercic’s mom, Joanne, had her Winnipeg class on board, as did Layne Matechuk’s sister, Carley, with her Regina students. 

“It was heartwarming to have them involved,” Leray-Leicht said. “It made the event extra special for me personally.”

Through the month of February, kids and their teachers got out and worked to accumulate kilometres on the ice and snow of the plains. On days when it was simply too cold to be outside, participants headed to gyms or rinks to continue with the tally. It all led up to the final total reveal in a virtual gathering for as many of the students as possible. 

“The majority of the schools were able to join. One or two representatives from each school had prepared some fun facts about their school community. They shared which treaty territory they lived on.” Celeste confesses that she’s learning much about Treaties across the country, including the fact that not all Indigenous communities have signed or are party to a treaty. Schools from Treaties 1,4,6 and 8 were involved in this year’s edition. 

“We learned which celebrities came from their communities, what their team mascots were, what their teams were called, what their enrollments were, and what was special to them about being involved in The Great Prairie Race.”

Even the Saskatchewan Rush Electric Dance crew prepared a video especially for the event to cheer on the racers. 

The students also recommitted to their learning, both inside of school and outside, on Truth and Reconciliation. The racers bonded through their participation and learned at the end of the process that there are differences in their backgrounds and locales, but there is a commonality - they are all kids with a purpose. 

“One day it would be great to meet face to face. I think that’s the big picture we have for Northern Lights Movement for Kids - to continue to build on our relationships and make connections.”

Find out more at Enjoy the gallery of this year’s participants from St. Augustine School in Humboldt, Wadena, Vincent Massey School in Saskatoon, and the La Ronge Skate-A-Thon, and listen to the full conversation.