Manitoba First Nations basketball team that lost teammate to suicide, fundraising for Toronto tournament

A girls basketball team in northern Manitoba is raising funds to fly to Toronto to play in a tournament, after losing a teammate to suicide last month.

The team at God’s Lake Narrows First Nation School said the funds will go towards shoes, uniforms and airline tickets to take part in the Gladiators Cup Tournament in Toronto next April. The tournament is an annual magnet for basketball players from across Canada.

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    The ‘Hoop Dreams’ fundraising goal of $17,000 will allow the team of 18 girls, aged 11 to 16, to purchase the needed supplies, and then to send 10 members to the tournament.

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    The campaign will also honour the memory of one of their teammates, Harmony Okemow, 14, who took her life Nov. 20.

    “This has left an emotional scar on the team. She was a loving and dedicated player,” said the team’s coach, Kishma Davidson, who also teaches math.

    Davidson said she hopes that in light of this tragedy, the give the team can be gives the opportunity to discover the world outside of their community and experience self growth.

    “Just going on that trip would probably bring us much closer than we are now,” Paige Okemow said , a cousin of Harmony Okemow, said.

    “When we get there we will play hard for Harmony. We will try our best to win for her.”

    The team hopes to raise $17,000 for equipment and airline tickets to the basketball tournament.

    Kishma Davidson

    The God’s Lake Narrows School is a fly-in community, with around 3,000 people living there.

    Kishma Davidson

    Many of the girls cannot afford basic basketball equipment, such as shoes.

    Kishma Davidson

    The girls are also hoping to play in honour of one of their teammates who took her own life last week.

    Kishma Davidson

    The tournament is in Toronto on April 1 and 2, 2017.

    Kishma Davidson

    Davidson said she hopes the trip will also develop the basketball players’ skills athletically and socially.

    “The girls would be able to experience different cultures, see the CN Tower, and some of them are asking if they get to go to Starbucks in Toronto,” Davidson said.

    Many of the girls on the team lack basic items to play the sport, such as basketball uniforms and shoes. Davidson said some girls even play in their socks.

    “As most of our students come from low-income families, they have been deprived of opportunities that many other teenagers their ages are fortunate to enjoy,” she said.

    If you would like to donate to the campaign, click here.

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