When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Julia Soucie, the Director of the Fort McKay Wellness Center, knew that they were going to have to go the extra mile to keep the community safe and healthy. When the initial lockdown happened, they challenged their community to stay healthy and moving by participating in at-home “strong-man” competitions, where children would lift furniture and household items, and take pictures to send in. The response was wonderful, with dozens of families completing the challenge.
When spring came, the community hosted a gardening competition, in which there were great prizes for each category. These prizes included water slides and trampolines in the children’s category and BBQs and furniture sets in the adult’s category. The whole community got engaged and participated. Communities ChooseWell was invited to take part in judging the competition. With such a great turnout for the competition, the Wellness Center plans to host another gardening competition this spring and summer.
The Wellness Center also put an emphasis on healthy eating during the pandemic. They hosted weekly young chef nights, where they pre-portioned out ingredients that were delivered to participants’ doorsteps. Once a young chef completed four online zoom classes, they were then given a “young chef kit”, which contained all the necessary equipment to create the recipes, including measuring spoons, bowls and baking dishes. This program is ongoing, and the participating youth enjoy it very much every week.
During the second wave of COVID-19 in December 2020, Fort McKay turned into a ghost town, with few community members leaving their homes. To encourage community members to stay healthy and active throughout the winter, the Wellness Center delivered outdoor activity kits, which included a sled, some snow decorating equipment and a snowball making kit. The kits were a huge success. Children who might not otherwise have had a sled for the winter were sledding from morning to evening. The community felt lively again, all thanks to the winter kits.
“One community member told me that they hadn’t seen their child smile like that in months,” explains Julia. “It felt good to see people out of their homes.”
It means a lot to Julia to win a Communities ChooseWell Most Significant Change Award.
“Being in recreation, you don’t always get the recognition,” says Julia. “Everyone in the community is always thankful for our programming.”
Moving forward, the Fort McKay Wellness Center hopes to continue to offer programming such as the young chef’s nights, the gardening competition, and the active living kits during the winter. With the community’s participation in the programming during the pandemic, there is sure to be more uptake moving forward. And a little competition has gone a long way in improving the health of community members in Fort McKay!