Fast and Female Hosted in Fort Smith

March 30 to April 1 Fort Smith hosted the third ‘Fast and Female’ event to be held in the NWT. Thirty five girls participated from Fort McPherson, Deline, Colville Lake, Fort Good Hope, Trout Lake, Yellowknife and Fort Smith.

 

by Patti-Kaye Hamilton

 

 

The ice  breaker was a night time sliding party. There was lots of shrieking on the wild ride down the bank of the Slave River and lots of panting on the long climb to the top. By the end of the evening girls who began as strangers were sitting around the bonfire laughing and talking like old friends as northern lights danced above them. 

In the midst of a Saturday morning snowstorm the girls were divided into groups based on skiing ability.  They were assigned one of four impressive instructors including four time Olympian Sharon Firth, Sarah Daitch a former national team member, biathlete Betsy Mawdsley just back from the Canadian Championships and veteran coach and event organizer Juneva Green. At times it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the instructors or the young ladies.

Over lunch Sharon Firth spoke to the girls about her journey from the trapline to the Olympics. It’s rare to have quiet in a room full of 35 little girls but there was a hush as Firth shared the compelling story of her life. One of the girls from Deline said it meant a lot because Sharon had come from a small town just like her hometown and even though she didn’t have a lot of money she didn’t give up on her dream to get to the Olympics. “I think if she did it I can do it too,” said the tiny 11 year old.

During the afternoon the girls rotated to biathlon, dog mushing, snowshoeing and skiing with the Champions. Dog musher, Rita Antoniak had worked hard to develop a program that gave each girl a chance to experience driving the dog team. Antoniak said the effort was all worthwhile when she heard all the laughing and giggling from the sleigh. Her message to the girls was simple,”You can do this.”she told them.

Evening action included kayaking, kickboxing, belly dancing, zumba and modern jewellery making. Most of the girls had never been in a kayak and Saskia van Mourik a former Junior National White Water Champion who competed internationally was impressed with the girls natural ability in the tippy boats. Fort McPherson chaperone and mom Lynn Hanthorn admired their courage to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. She said none of her five girls had ever rolled a kayak or kick boxed but they were willing to try and she saw their confidence grow over the weekend.

Sunday the girls and their guides had a long, leisurely ski on the historic and beautiful Thebacha Loppet trail along the Slave River.  Their Fast and Female experience in Fort Smith ended with a hot dog roast around a campfire and a spontaneous snowball fight.

Marie LaForme the teacher/chaperone from Colville Lake says Fast and Female has become an incentive that helps her keep the girls active. They know if they show up to ski after school they’ll be able to travel to the next Fast and Female. LaForme says, “There are many opportunities for boys to travel to hockey tournaments or hand games competitions but Fast and Female is one of the few events that inspires the girls.”

Laura Aubrey, one of the Fort Smith chaperones and organizers says, “My daughter Amelie came away from the weekend feeling self-confident, empowered to reach her goals, and had a deeper connection to other young females her age living in smaller communities North of 60. A big impact was having role models there all weekend. This reinforced the belief that healthy lifestyle choices, strong communities, and dreams are what will keep you going in life. She truly believes that dreams can become reality. You just have to believe in yourself and then make it happen.”

Fast and Female is an initiative developed by Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford to empower girls through sport. 

To check out the pictures from Fort Smith and also here