There are many ailments that affect Native people at much higher rates than they do the Canadian public. These include cancer, diabetes and some diseases that are unique to one Nation, like Cree-leukoencephalopathy and Cree leukoencephalitis.

It’s an uphill battle fighting these diseases, but our health care professionals have answered the call on many occasions.

Take, for example, the recent cancer awareness campaign in Chisasibi. Doctors, nurses, hospital personnel and community members all stepped up to the plate and had their heads shaved so teenagers with cancer can have a brighter future.

The campaign, launched by the “On the Tip of the Toes Foundation” was a huge success. In only one week, Chisasibi community members raised $8,000 and shaved 25 heads.

The foundation’s name comes from the belief that if people stand on their tiptoes, they can see farther, and that’s what they are trying to help children do: see beyond today.

The foundation provides children with opportunities to go on expeditions to various locales across Canada with kids who are going through the same things they are. They even visited Ouje-Bougoumou a couple years back.

The fact that professionals put themselves out there by having their heads shaved publicly really says a lot about their character, their love for the community and their willingness to help. I take my hat off to every one of them.

These amazing achievements aren’t only done by health professionals, however.

Every year, the parent company of the Northern stores, the Northwest Company, stages a Canada-wide campaign to fight diabetes.

The company sells paper snowmen for $2 each, with the proceeds going directly to the Canadian Diabetes Foundation.

Northern stores in Chisasibi and Wemindji are doing something about the problem and at the same time, consistently outselling large urban centres like Regina and Winnipeg year after year.

Together the stores sold over $26,000 worth of snowmen for the Christmas season.

This determination to bring the diabetic epidemic under control is truly inspiring.

Northwest also sends participants to Hawaii for a marathon to raise funds for the same cause. Running is a healthy, active sport and it’s exactly what we need to do to fight these diseases, run them right out of our lives.

Despite these determined and strong-willed people, we can still do more as individuals.

Eating healthier, exercising and, as much as possible, living a happy life are keys to being a good parent and a good person.

For everyone who is trying to live that way, keep up the great work and you will reap the benefits!