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Friday, April 1, 2011

The True Meaning of Giving Back, In What You Believe In

April 01, 2011

The True Meaning of Giving Back, In What You Believe In:

This is a story about a young man, who understood what it meant to be a Professional Hockey Player who spent 12 years playing in the NHL, (National Hockey League). This is about a young man who could have just walked away from it all and lived in comfort for the rest of his life. Instead, he decided to do, what nobody would even imagine, live in one of the most remote places, humanly imaginable, and take on the most challenging job of his young life.

Before beginning a career in which he won an Olympic silver medal in 1992, scored 102 points as a Boston Bruins rookie in 1992-93 and then went on to Stanley cup finals with the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabre's. Joe Juneau, from a small town called Pont-Rouge, Quebec who also earned a degree in aeronautical engineering in just three years. He did this despite studying in a language that he could not speak when he started at the university. He says to this day his biggest accomplish in his life was getting his RPI degree ahead of all he accomplished in Hockey.

His office is located Kuujjuaq, a small town of 2,100 and the metropolis of the 14 villages dotted approximately 800 km north of Quebec City. He decides to move his wife and two daughters to start up a program where "Drug Addiction and Suicide have become problems of ALARM." Now he works at the 58th parallel, in a place where there are no roads other than the streets in Kuujjuanq. This area is also knowing as Nunavik where the Inuit population call home. Joe Juneau first visited Nunavik on a caribou hunting trip, back in 2004 and decided that he had a mission to accomplish in his life.

On a return trip in the spring of 2006, he had noticed that the local rink was completely deserted and children playing in the streets without any supervision. He presented a plan for his hockey program to the Inuit-run Makivik Corporation. The program set forth 10 objectives, which included educational tie-ins, crime prevention, the development of local coaches who could meet standards set by the Quebec Ice Hockey Federation, nutritional instruction, and community volunteerism.

There are, in fact, three conditions for children who want to stay in the program, wear the uniforms and maybe make the travel team. They are not judged on school work, per say but on attendance, behavior, and effort. Each Friday the grammar teacher fills out reports assessing each student in all three categories. By sticking and meeting these conditions at the school, allows the children to take part in this program developed by Joe. He makes it very clear in order for you to be part of my program, you will need to follow these simple rules, no exceptions what so ever. As one of the local teachers said, a hockey stick can be a wonderful carrot.

What he has accomplished, is teaching the children the most fundamental basic skills and captured their attention that they can develop lifelong skills, that will provide them with the ability, to be able to make them the best they can be within their own ability. He organized drills as elementary as having younger children skate to center ice and belly flop, acclimating them to falling. As time progressed the children slowly improved on their skills and obtaining much-needed confidence in their ability.

Children started to change their attitudes, going home and helping around the house with daily chores and helping younger siblings with homework. Small steps, but why would a person do this? Move his family to one of the most remote places in North America. How many lives can Joe Juneau actually change? Can a harsh and haunting landscape be remade through sports? Time will tell Joe has made a difference for many young children in his program.

All the Best,

Joseph F. Botelho One Gram at a Time

Joseph Botelho

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