Alexander Perez The Eastern Door
This past Tuesday marked the opening game of the Kahnawake Mixed Softball League (KMSL). But it wasn’t the athletes nor the sport that took centre stage.
The 2022 KMSL season will be dedicated to Assisted Living Services (ALS) in order to raise awareness about community members with special needs. To mark the occasion, Kahnawa’kehró:non Joey Robertson Jr. was invited to throw the first pitch. He was also presented with a blue and red Demons jersey.
This event was set in motion after a simple conversation between Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chiefs Ryan Montour and Arnold Boyer. Boyer was asked to sponsor the Demons team and to have the ALS logo on the jerseys, but it soon expanded to a season-long awareness and fundraising campaign.
“What is so wonderful for all of us is that chief Boyer and chief Montour approached us,” said Victoria Jocks, manager at ALS. “When community members approach us, I can’t tell you what that does for morale.
“We want to keep connected to the larger community,” she continued.
Herby Lahache, pitcher and captain of the Rez Birds, said that there are so many children in the community who have special needs, “whether it’d be physical disabilities, emotional, or mental.”
“By promoting it, it’s going to bring more awareness and more awareness to ourselves, on the field as players,” he added.
Montour held a pregame speech announcing the awareness campaign. He also revealed that the Rez Birds, Yankees, The Boyz and Demons would each pledge $2 to ALS for every run they score this season.
The Rez Birds beat the Yankees 17-11, while The Boyz booked their first win of the season, beating the Demons 16-14 and amassing a total of $116 to begin the season.
“During COVID, we took a big hit because, for two years, there was no fundraising,” said Jocks. “This is such a boost of morale, and to feel the support from the community means everything.” During elections, MCK chief Boyer said that his main priority was to help those in the special needs community. He said he wants to make the community more aware of the barriers the special needs community face “and to help them overcome this problem.”
Boyer also stated that he hopes to bring members of that community into the workforce.
Having worked as an accessibility inspector for the government of Canada, Boyer said that he sees areas of the community where accessibility can be improved.
“Everybody at the Council table knows my passion, and my heart is in the needs of our disabled community,” said Boyer. “Every day, I know there are challenges, and I understand what they’re going through.”
During a Council meeting, Boyer even refused an office in the Council building due to it being on the third floor. It was a gesture that prompted Montour to stand and claim, “You’re a man of honour.”
“I learned about special needs from Arnold,” said Montour. “Arnold is a strong voice at the table. He’s a strong advocate for it.”
Jocks is encouraged by the mobilization of the community to help shed light and advocate for those who struggle to have their voices heard.
“Community is who we are. It’s our culture. It’s our value system. It’s what ties us into each other and lifts us up when we’re down,” she said.
“It feels good to meet people who say what they mean and mean what they say and are really out to support this population. It means everything.”