It was a rainy day and the thought of spending time with 19 children from Chisasibi was something I was looking forward to, especially knowing that we were going to Parc Safari, just south of Montreal. As I started thinking about the trip, a big smile crossed my face.

Arriving at Hôtel du Fort around 8:00am, the arranged departure time, I discovered things were behind schedule. The day before, the bus had had a flat tire and it needed to be repaired. Seeing the children – aged eight and nine – anxiously waiting to leave, I walked around and asked several of them what they wanted to do that day. One girl said, “I am going to feed the animals.” Another said, “I am going for the rides.” I asked if anyone had brought some carrots, and found out that someone had.

Finally at 9:30am, we were on our way to Parc Safari. By then the rain had stopped and the temperature was rising, and the adults were starting to put sunblock on the children.

Just as we approached Parc Safari, the children started seeing animals and were getting excited. As the bus drove in, one of the first animals we saw was a giraffe – with its long neck you could see it from just about any distance.

A bit further on I spotted an ostrich, but before I could say anything one kid yelled out, “Finally, something I know – a big turkey.” Everyone in the bus started laughing. The darndest things kids say.

The adults tried to identify as many animals as they could, and to my amazement I couldn’t name most of them. The children were quite excited about the animals they knew, like the geese and “Dumbo” – or what most of us call elephants.

The first part of the trip lasted about an hour and once it was done, organizer Mary-Jane Chiskamish suggested that the children have a snack before going to see the animal enclosures. After a break and a few photos, it was a go.

The first area we went to was wolves’ den. I could tell children weren’t that interested in the beasts because they see them often. Then it was on to the lions and the tigers. When we got close to the lions, I was struck by the size of their paws. Wow! The tigers, however, were a little shy, but we could see them playing inside.

A little further on, the children became fascinated by the size of a baby monkey. I don’t remember what kind it was though. Then off we went to see the bigger monkeys who love to eat as they were the only animals begging for food. Just on the other side were the black bears and I never realized how big they could be. The children were having a lot of fun, as were the adults.

We walked around for a while before we got to the deer. By that time everyone was out of carrots or anything they could feed them. We had to get some food that they sell there. Everyone seemed to enjoy this part of the trip as I didn’t even keep track on how long we stayed there.

We saw this cute baby deer that the children called Bambi. I tried a trick where I put a piece of food in my mouth to see if the deer would eat it. As soon as the deer saw the food, they grabbed it and almost took off my lips. It hurt a bit, but I didn’t tell that to the children. Of course, some of them tried to do the same thing.

The playground was right next to the ponies. The weight limit to ride the ponies was 35 kilos. Most of the children were over that, so some of them decided to go to the playground. But the children who could go for a pony ride went. The others stayed there for a while wondering what to do next.

It was about 3:30pm, and by this time the only places left to go were the amusement park and the restaurant. The children were asked what they prefer to do – eat or play. Some said they were hungry, but most decided to go to the park. They knew they didn’t have much time left so they wanted to have as much fun as possible.

It was easy to identity the children and adults in the Chisasibi group as most of them wore white t-shirts that were given to them by the companies that supported this trip. On our way back it didn’t take long for the children to fall asleep. It was cute seeing them fatigued from a day full of activities. As I turned around, I even saw a few adults dozing. This is a trip that all the participants wouldn’t forget very quickly.

Two months ago, when this trip was just an idea, Marie Jane Chiskamish and the other organizers held several fundraising activities in Chisasibi, but unfortunately the financial result was insufficient. Desperate to make this trip happen, Chiskamish contacted the Nation to find out if free Parc Safari tickets were available this year. She spoke to Beesum Communications’ marketing manager Michel Goyette, who saw the possibility of organizing a special event that would benefit a group of children wanting to have some educational fun in Montreal.

Goyette approached Hôtel du Fort, who was looking for a special way to celebrate 10 years of partnership with the Crees and the Nation. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity, they jumped aboard and offered free rooms and a breakfast buffet for all the participants as well as special gifts for the 19 children. Parc Safari, along with the Nation, offered the entire group the tickets, and ad agency Réseau Sélect worked hard to deliver the tickets to the group on time.

Goyette spoke with other contacts and got free t-shirts from the Fondation aide à la Jeunesse, while VDL Promotions (who work with Beesum on all promotional items as a wholesaler) paid for their printing and shipping. Also, La Ronde and the Planetarium came onboard and offered the group school rates and bonus discounts. And finally, Beesum offered the organization time at no cost to the group.

In the end, it was great seeing how people can come together when it involves young children and a good cause.

Here’s a list of all the adults who participated: Mary Jane Chiskamish, Mabel Matches, Winnie Scipio, Tina House, Cherubain Martin, Gracie Sealhunter, Elizabeth Kitty, Betsy Scipio, Evelyn Ratt, Allisson Bobbish, Margaret Sealhunter, Beatrice Bullfrog, Ronnie Sam, Troy Moar, Eric Scipio and bus driver Gilbert Loutit.

And a big meequetch from all the children: Jordan Shem, Jason Sealhunter, Justin Shem, Caitlyn Iserhoff, Katie Kynn Bobbish, Reginald Hester, Johnathan Scipio, Tyrell Sealhunter, Trisity Bearskin, Tamera Sealhunter, Florina Esau, Pearl Scipio, Jerrica Coon Come, Aliyiah Hill, Curtis Sam, Sean Fireman, Marcus Gilpin, Alicia Moar and Shane Scipio.