Thunderbirds announce Inclusion and Empowerment Program

Nov 11, 2020

(November 11, 2020) The Halifax Thunderbirds announced today their Inclusion and Empowerment Program in partnership with the Indigenous Players Lacrosse Association, Turtle Island Lacrosse, the Black Lacrosse Alliance, and the Nova Scotia Sirens Female Lacrosse Program.

As a commitment to growing the sport of lacrosse in Nova Scotia, this community grassroots program will help to create sustainable lacrosse opportunities for boys and girls across the province, and empower community leaders with the tools they need to make lacrosse a vehicle for success.

In addition to hosting a series of interactive community ‘Try Lacrosse’ programming, the Thunderbirds will join community members via monthly Zoom calls to discuss local matters, social issues, and most importantly: to listen.

“Owner and General Manager Curt Styres has always placed great importance on giving back to local communities.“ said Thunderbirds President & CEO John Catalano. “Our goal is to inspire, empower and elevate by creating a welcoming environment for potential athletes, while also utilizing culture sharing, storytelling, symbolism, customary engagements, and other educational opportunities, as a source of genuine inclusivity.”

Joining forces with the Thunderbirds is Turtle Island Lacrosse, an educational organization co-founded by National Lacrosse League pros and members of the Iroquois Nationals, Randy Staats, and Brendan Bomberry. Turtle Island Lacrosse aims to educate and empower lacrosse players across North America with knowledge and experiences that they have gained during each stage of their careers, as well as the importance of lacrosse in indigenous communities.

Thunderbirds and Iroquois Nationals Captain, Cody Jamieson will join the Indigenous Players Lacrosse Association and Turtle Island Lacrosse as a representative the First Nation community. 

Billie Juilan, President of The Indigenous Players Lacrosse Association, says his organization has similar aspirations to the Thunderbirds,

“It is with great pleasure to announce our partnership with the Halifax Thunderbirds. We look forward to working together to bring cultural diversity and inclusion to indigenous communities. We are confident our that the work with the Thunderbirds will benefit the high-performance sector of Mi’kma’ki Lacrosse and open doors to future prospects”

The Black Lacrosse Alliance joins Turtle Island Lacrosse as another partner of the Thunderbirds Inclusion and Empowerment program and features some of the sports best black lacrosse players in the US and Canada. The organization was formed this past summer after months of hard work among some of the biggest names in the PLL and NLL. 

Co-founder, Jules Heningburg in an article with US Lacrosse Magazine, “Lacrosse is a predominantly white sport; that's something no one can really deny. But at the end of the day, there are black boys and black girls out there playing, and they don't see anyone like us playing at the highest level. If we could come together and be a beacon of hope and light for these young players, it could inspire them to keep going through everything of what it's like to be a black lacrosse player.”

Dartmouth native and Thunderbirds 2020 draft pick, Brett Draper, will be representing the African Nova Scotian community, alongside Thunderbirds assistant coach Billy Dee Smith. Additionally, Thunderbirds players Luc Magnan and Stephan Leblanc join the French community, while Carrie Cussons, President & CEO of the Scotiabank Centre, will represent the female community alongside Nova Scotia Sirens Female Lacrosse President Catherine Martin.  

A major first step in community programming is the North Preston Lacrosse Try Lacrosse program being offered for athletes new to the game, beginning Saturday, November 28 at the North Preston Rec Centre. This free four-week program will run Saturday afternoons for 6 to 8 year olds (2:30 to 3:30 PM) and 9 to 14 year olds (3:30 to 4:30 PM), with Thunderbirds players on hand to help introduce newcomers to the game.    

Brett Draper, who has family from the Preston community emphasized how he was thrilled to be a part of a project with such meaning and purpose behind it. “Being able to give back to the community while sharing the game I love is truly a dream come true. The sky's the limit for us and I’m excited to build on this project for years to come.”  

AJ Simmonds, Community Outreach and Research Coordinator for the African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office, said he loves the idea of the project and adds “it is always a good time to begin a project like this, but with the world the way it is right now feels that this is the perfect time to engage black communities.”

For more information on the Inclusion and Empowerment program, and how you can assist in bringing lacrosse to your community, please email [email protected], or by calling 902-334-2333.

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