Inuvik local Tony Devlin received an Award of Merit for his 10 years of service with the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) in Yellowknife last week.
“When I heard … I was shocked, but deeply honored,” said Devlin. “My first question when Geoff Ray called to tell me was, ‘are you sure you have the right person?'”
In his 10 years, he says he’s contributed to many initiatives that he’s proud of, but one that sticks out is Walk to Tuk. a recreation program developed in the Northwest Territories.
“During my time, Walk to Tuk was introduced. This was a staff-led program … it started out in 2011 with only 550 participants,” he said. “This year, there were 4,400 participants in the NWT, which represents 1 in 10 citizens of the territory … it has just continued to grow every single year.”
The program has garnered national attention – in 2015, it was a finalist for CBC’s The Play Exchange, a contest for initiatives aiming to make Canada healthier.
Walk to Tuk also won the Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2016.
Emphasizing the North
Devlin said during his time with CPRA, he has always tried to ensure Northern values, cultures and perspectives are respected in the national conversation about recreation.
“It’s important to remind southern Canada that not everyone has the advantages and resources that they may have,” he said. “I’ve tried to make sure that the rest of Canada doesn’t forget about the North.”
When it comes to recreation in the North, Devlin says we’re lucky to have easy access to the land in order to incorporate nature into recreation activities.
“We connect with nature naturally, which sounds kind of funny, but it’s true,” said Devlin. “A tanning camp is a great example of community and cultural recreation that happens naturally. It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s social, and you’re coming together to accomplish a common goal.”
North or south, indoor or outdoor, Devlin said recreation is extremely important to all communities.
“Recreation is the absolute background of community fabric. It enhances the quality of life for everyone,” he said. “The rec centre is the heart of the community … it is where fun, health, fitness and mental wellbeing all come together.”