Home News Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland topples records

Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland topples records

Kateri Memorial Foundation has committed to offering bursaries annually for all Ratiwennahní:rats students. Courtesy Kateri Memorial Foundation

After smashing previous attendance numbers, the ninth annual Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland has now broken another record, with the Kateri Memorial Foundation (KMF) announcing this week that nearly $200,000 was raised in support of community initiatives.

“I’m ecstatic about the amount raised and excited to continue helping Kahnawa’kehró:non,” said KMF board member Carla Skye. Since 2015, she has helped organize the annual fundraiser in memory of her daughter, Karonhiaráhstha Sky Junie Delisle, who passed away as a baby in 2013. 

“Niawenhkó:wa again to the community for always coming out and supporting our initiative every year,” she added. “We couldn’t do it without them, and we’re excited for next year. We have some surprises next year.”

The total fundraising amount came to $199,250, raised through half-and-half and ticket sales. Funds raised go towards the scholarship program created in Karonhiaráhstha’s name, which are given out each year to community members studying in the health sciences field. Funds are also put towards specific initiatives such as addiction support, parenting bereavement support, and CPR training.

This year, given the staggering amount of funds raised, KMF decided to support even more community initiatives. $10,000 was donated to the Kateri Food Basket, and a special bursary was created to support the Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats program, which KMF intends to continue annually. Ratiwennahní:rats students were surprised with news of the bursary last Wednesday, with first and second-year students being awarded a $500 check. Second-year students will be awarded an additional $1,000 upon their graduation in the spring. 

“We just showed up, and the students thought it was just a presentation, but then we gave each and every student their cheque, which was an emotional moment for the students and the moms and all the families who make that financial sacrifice for students to go to school,” said KMF events coordinator Karihwenhawi Emily Kane. 

Kane said that seeing students appreciate support after a long year of preparation for Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland is her favourite part of the process. 

“That’s what makes it all worth it, just seeing the reactions of the people who are receiving it,” she said. “(Ratiwennahní:rats students) don’t always get recognized for their efforts, so this was the right time to do it for them.”

A fundamental part of Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland is the idea of giving back to the community, particularly in the spirit of holiday giving. 

“The economy is crazy, especially with what we’re going through right now with finances and everything, so we just wanted to give a little help right before Christmas. We really wanted to ensure we could do this at Christmas, and everybody was so thankful,” Kane said.  

Tahothoratie Cross, a first-year Ratiwennahní:rats student, was shocked to receive the donation and said he’s grateful for the ongoing support of the language program in the community. 

“They kept it really well-hidden. We didn’t find out until we were actually given our bursaries, so it was really exciting,” he said. “You could see that for a lot of us, it was something unexpected, and to get that in such a surprising way really meant a lot.”

As well as making a meaningful difference financially, Cross said he was touched by KMF’s recognition of the intensity of the program. 

“There’s an understanding that it’s a hard thing to do, but there are a lot of struggles that you as an individual and as a group go through when learning a language. You’re giving up a lot. You’re back to school, every single day,” he said. “We’re working at nights, or maybe other kinds of work because you have obligations. So any support like this is really, really special.”

Cross said that his entire cohort has been feeling the pinch this year, with rising costs of living affecting everyone. 

“It feels like the timing couldn’t be any more perfect. We’ve been having conversations about all different kinds of struggles, so getting this kind of financial support at a time where it feels like you’re just bleeding money, it’s really nice to have this uplifting moment,” he said.

In terms of expanding funding from health sciences students to include language and culture initiatives, Cross said KMF’s decision is a vital one. 

“I think it’s really important, and it makes a lot of sense, it’s not that large a jump from the medical field to language and culture, because a lot of people look to our language as a type of medicine,” he said. “For our people, it means a lot to be able to carry on who we are, and that can be healing in many ways, so I think it’s important that there’s continual support for these types of initiatives.”

Going forward, KMF will support each Ratiwennahní:rats student by disbursing $2,000 over the course of the two-year program. 

“As long as the program stands, it’s an incentive for the students to stay in, and to know they have our support,” Kane said. 

evedcable@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on Friday, December 15, in issue 32.50 of The Eastern Door.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.

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Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door. She has also covered harm reduction and social justice issues for the Montreal Gazette, The Breach, Filter Magazine, and more.