Eeyou Istchee needs individuals like Gordon Hudson in Mistissini. Hudson puts in a tremendous amount of hard work and overtime as Mistissini’s Director of Youth Services with the Cree Health Board. But the best part is he also opens various activities up to all nine communities.

I first met him at an Ottawa Renegades game in the nation’s capital in October 2004. With him was a throng of cheering, wide-eyed youngsters from all over Eeyou Istchee. It was his first attempt at bringing the kids to southern locales to show them something new and exciting. For some, it was a first time out of their community.

That visit came on the heels of a youth football camp that attracted Renegades’ players and Head Coach Joe Paopao. They did the same thing the following summer.

Hudson’s aim is to make sure the kids are aware of the opportunities out there and, on a personal level, make sure they don’t commit the same the mistakes he’s made. “I struggled with alcohol and drugs, but I’ve overcome it for over eight years now and I want to pass along these positive messages to these kids so hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes I did.”

Someone like Gordon Hudson should be heralded and looked up to as a role model. He almost single-handedly took the bull by the horns and created opportunity for kids that they normally would not have had.

The football camps he helped to create have come a long way. They will be expanding this summer to separate coastal and inland camps. Coach Joe Paopao has moved onto the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League but will be coming back to Mistissini for a third straight year. Discussions with the Montreal Alouettes to visit Chisasibi during their off-week are ongoing, but it’s “almost a done deal,” according to Hudson.

A pan-Eeyou Istchee flag football league is nearing reality, thanks largely to these camps – and Hudson.

Hudson, himself a former pro football tight end, loves the game dearly, but he also realizes the need to promote hockey and basketball; two sports many youngsters in the nine communities already participate in.

Although the kids don’t pay anything to attend these excursions, they have raised quite a bit of money through various fund-raising activities in the community, such as cutting wood for elders, and helping with the New Year’s celebration. The kids raised $12,000 on their own and for a trip to see the Ottawa Senators, for example. They were also asked to write an essay on why they’d like to participate and encouraged to keep their grades up if they wanted to go on more outings.

Hudson and his workers brought the kids to an Ottawa Senators game to see the Sens and San Jose Sharks practice on January 12. They also got an amazing opportunity to meet Jonathan Cheechoo, and, later that night, watch the game.

The exposure for the Cree Nation in the southern media is important as well. Ignorance and racism against Crees is based on the fact that most non-natives don’t personally know any. These trips help to dispel the negative connotations people have of Crees.

Next stop Toronto; for two Raptors games at the end of March. Discussions of inland and coastal hockey camps with former and current NHLers like Steve Yzerman, Marc Denis and Kevin Dineen will be announced shortly as well.

Hats off to Gord Hudson and his crew, they are truly making a difference for the future generations.