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Calvin Reimer stands in front of a group of CanU kids

Bisons student-athletes are giving back through CanU

CanU provides kids with the opportunity to see what possibilities are available to them on a post-secondary campus

November 10, 2023 — 

In its 13 years of operation, CanU, the Winnipeg-based charitable organization, has helped more than 800 grade school students gain exposure and a sense of belonging in post-secondary institutions. These students are introduced to people and programs throughout the city to help them imagine what a future in post-secondary can look like.

CanU has worked alongside Bisons Sports to expose these grade 5-12 students to what it means to be a student-athlete with the University of Manitoba. Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management student Calvin Reimer, also a fourth-year Bisons track and field student-athlete and team captain, facilitates the Track and Field Experience, where CanU Kids come to learn the basics of the sport and get to be mentored by Bisons student-athletes.

“It’s been important to me to give back because I’ve taken a lot from the sport,” said Reimer.

Reimer said the core of CanU’s impact lies in exposure. CanU allows kids to see and have experiences they might not have been able to access without the program and Reimer said that goes a long way.

“I’ve been very fortunate with the resources and activities that were given to me as a kid,” he said. “To share my own share passion with all these kids is a real special experience.”

Outside the James Daly Fieldhouse walls, the program’s influence is felt in its annual Holiday Hamper program. Each year, all Bisons teams come together to bring hampers to CanU families in need. Each team raises money and puts together packages of food, gifts, and necessities for the families before delivering them throughout the city.

The program started in 2015 with the Bisons men’s hockey team but has grown to include all 16 men’s and women’s teams. The program has grown from donating six hampers in its first year to over 50 annually.

“It’s really cool to see that full collaboration from all the teams,” said Reimer. “And all for the purpose of being able to give back.”

Graham Hutchison-Campbell, a third-year Bisons track and field athlete and team captain, said it’s a privilege to be a student-athlete at UM, so finding ways to give back to the community is important.

“I think with that comes a responsibility,” said Hutchison-Campbell about being a student-athlete. “Lots of the people who are here now have used or have gotten some of these services in the past.”

Hutchinson-Campbell said the track and field team captains have made volunteering one of the team’s ‘non-negotiable’ items for the year, encouraging all their athletes to get involved in some of the many programs put together by the University of Manitoba Athletic Council (UMAC), including Bison Book Buddies, Bisons Against Bullying, and CanU.

While spending a Wednesday evening jumping into a sandpit (the CanU kids’ favourite activity, said Reimer) or delivering hampers might seem like small gestures, but both Reimer and Hutchinson-Campbell agree that the impact of CanU on the kids is immeasurable.

Check out Bisons Sports’ Canada Helps page to donate to the Bisons Holiday Hampers Program.

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