For the second Lime in the last three years, the Northern Store in the smaller community of Wemindji has outsold its counterpart in Chisasibi in a race for diabetes awareness and, hopefully one day, a cure.

The two stores battled it out last year for diabetic awareness supremacy in Canada by outselling stores in much larger areas like Winnipeg and Regina. This year, instead of snowmen, they sold paper reindeer and sleighs.

“It’s completely the community,” said a humble Vikram Mulki, Manager of Wemindji’s Northern Store. “They’ve taken it to heart and they understand the importance of diabetes. We don’t really have to sell it to them.”

Family sleighs sold for $10, individual reindeer for $2. Each carried the name of the supporter and was hung up on the walls of the store.

Wemindji sold 678 sleighs, and 8,108 reindeer for a total of $22,996. Chisasibi’s total was 9,503 reindeer for a total of $19,006. Both were impressive numbers and the drive to sell more and more each day helped to create a friendly competition between the two communities.

In all, over 50,000 reindeer were sold in all Northern, Odd Lot and Giant Tiger stores in Canada. A total of $ 112,496 was raised to fight diabetes, exceeding last year’s total by $4,607.

“My job was not much involvement in it, except for encouragement and to get it organized,” said Mulki. “It was mostly the staff, Doreen, Priscilla, Elsie, all the girls here that took up the challenge. They were the ones pushing us more than anything else.”

Four years ago when Wemindji sold 400 snowmen, the community was issued a challenge. Sell more! They responded by moving 3,209 snowmen the next year and 5,219 last year. It is not unreasonable to think that the community of less than 1,300 souls might reach the unbelievable goal of 10,000 reindeer next year. That amount works out to over eight times the community’s population.

Chisasibi and its population of 3,600 are close behind, as they improved on their total of 6,722 last year. When fundraising for this year’s diabetes awareness marathon is factored in, however, Chisasibi raised $34,000 to fight the disease.

“It’s great, every year they seem to do better and better,” said Chisasibi Northern Manager Brent Bowen. “We have a couple of our long-term staff, like Nelly Pachano who is our head cashier, who sold the most. One day I remember her selling 80 reindeer herself.”

Bowen also ran in the marathon in Hawaii and has diabetes in his family.

“The people of Chisasibi have big hearts,” he said. “If you find a reason that’s important, they’ll jump behind it full well. If it’s helping a family that had their house burn down, or raising money for diabetes, when they put their mind to it, they get behind anything.”

Bowen said penny socials, donations and selling fruit and vegetables at the local poker tournaments and the live bingos really helped to raise awareness and get people behind them. “Any opportunity to get out and raise some dollars, we did and everybody supported us very well.”
He also said an added incentive this year arose during a staff meeting. He had his employees touch a person on either side of them and they were told that one of the people they are touching was liable to have diabetes. “It was a real eye-opener for our staff and I think it made them push harder this year.”

Wemindji Northern Store Manager Mulki had a similar experience to share.

“The community is amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that kind of enthusiasm and commitment. The community is very aware of diabetes. The other day six diabetic cookbooks came into the store and they sold out in the first two hours. That shows you that people are very aware.”

Bragging rights go a long way as well. “They don’t get anything out of winning, but it’s the pride in the community that says, ‘Hey, we’re small, but we know what we are and we’re capable of doing so much more.’”