Every summer for the past two decades, Paul and Belinda Burston and a group of volunteers from churches like Hillside Community Church in Tottenham and Green Valley Alliance in Bradford have headed up to the remote First Nations community of Mishkeegogamang.
It’s been an opportunity to build understanding and ties between northern and southern communities and to provide summer programming for the kids of Mish – a summer camp filled with arts and crafts, sports and other activities.
But this year is different. Due to COVID-19, there is no way for the volunteers to safely visit the community, located near Pickle Lake in northern Ontario, without the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
To ensure that the kids at Mish still have the opportunity to have fun this summer and build great memories, True North Aboriginal Partnership, the non-profit organization founded by Burston, is raising funds to assemble Summer Camp Kits for each home with children, working in collaboration with the Mishkeegogamang community leadership.
The kits will be filled with everything needed for a summer of fun – jump ropes, marble sets, LEGO and other toys, paints, markers, crayons, bubblegum, balloons and more, “based on what has been a hit in the past face-to-face camps,” according to True North.
The cost of each kit is projected at approximately $75. True North Aboriginal Partnership is hoping to raise enough to provide kits for 160 homes with children - sending the items purchased up north, so that community members in Mish can sort and assemble the boxes to meet the needs of each family.
Donations are welcomed, and can be sent to True North Aboriginal Partnership, Box 144, Bond Head, ON L0G 1B0. Every gift is appreciated; donations of over $20 will be issued a tax receipt. The goal is to ship all of the items up to Mishkeegogamang early in August.
This year’s initiative has a special focus. With the permission of their families, the Summer Camp Kit campaign is dedicated to the memory of two beloved young residents of Mishkeegogamang who tragically passed away recently – 17-year-old Ricardo Spade, and 2-year-old Klyrisa Adalene Jadira Bottle.
The project began with an initiative of Belinda Burston. Instead of gifts for her birthday back in June, she asked friends to make a donation to True North Aboriginal Partnership - and their generosity raised nearly $2,000 for the kids of Mish.