The importance of Big Brothers Big Sisters 

For more than 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert has been changing the lives of local youth through the dedication of Saskatchewan volunteers.  

The organization nourishes youth participants through developmental relationships with volunteer mentors. Children apart of the program are provided the space to try new hobbies and develop skills that can help them positively contribute to their community.  

“[Volunteers] are making the future brighter for everyone. They are helping a young person but also strengthening our community, because the youth are our future.”  

Natasha Thomson, the Development Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert

As a recipient of the Sask Lotteries Community Grant Program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert funds activities for youth to explore with their mentors and offers opportunities that may not be accessible otherwise. 

“Sask Lotteries Community Grant funding is used to aid in our BIG Fun Program. It allows us to remove barriers for vulnerable children and their families, so they can access healthy, cultural and recreational activities. This is available to all our matches, as well as the families on our waiting list,” said Natasha Thomson, the Development Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Albert. 

By supporting volunteer-led organizations, the wellbeing of local communities can continue to thrive and expand. The grant prioritizes communities having access to impactful and innovative sport, culture and recreation programs, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.  

“Each time an individual signs up for our program. It changes two lives. The volunteer’s life and the child’s life. We see positive outcomes for both involved.”  

People who volunteer become more than a mentor within the program and take on the role of being a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ figure to the participants. Every relationship built through the program is unique to the match. 

“In recent years we have done a lot of research to come to a greater understanding of why our program works so well. We know that developmental relationships are something that young people need. We have a really focused on helping our volunteers build developmental relationships that help youth thrive.”   

Prioritizing the success rate of compatible matches between youth and their mentor, means connecting youth with a volunteer who shares similar interests. Following the initial match, mentors are trained to support their youth and aid them in cultivating new skills that will empower them moving forwards.  

The benefit of Big Brothers Big Sisters is felt beyond the reach of the children and their mentors, expanding into the community, child’s family as well as the internal structure of the organization.  

“Working here as taught me that relationships are the most important thing in our lives. Big Brothers Big Sisters is important because we teach young people and their volunteers how to have a healthy relationship and help them through the steps of building that together,” explained Thomson. 

The relationships built through Big Brothers and Big Sister interactions are felt in every level of the program. Volunteers and the youth participants are the heart of the organization. 

“[Volunteers] are making the future brighter for everyone. They are helping a young person but also strengthening our community, because the youth are our future.”  

To learn more about the Community Grant Program, visit our Trust Funds & Grants page

Charlie Biemans dedicates himself to his community

This volunteer recognition story and photo is courtesy of the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation 

Volunteers have the ability to adapt to the particular needs of an organization and situation. Charlie Biemans stands as an example of the diverse skills exhibited by Saskatchewan volunteers. 

For 43 years, Biemans has dedicated himself Englefeld’s community through numerous roles at the local school.  

In his free time, he has followed his passion for sport and coached youth in baseball, softball, volleyball, track, badminton, soccer, hockey and curling.  

Biemans continues to take the lead role in making the curling and skating ice for winter activities in the local arena. He manages the rink schedules, ice rentals, opening and closing, cleaning and maintenance, and ensuring the kitchen is fully stocked with supplies. 

He has an ability to create community, as Biemans has planned evenings at the local rink that feature burgers and free skating. 

Over the years, Charlie has spent time on the Englefeld Rec Board, village council and has supported the installation of new playground equipment at the park as well as renovations to the arena. 

“Englefeld is a better place because of the countless hours of volunteer time Charlie dedicates to the community. He is the driving force behind the Rec Board,” said fellow community member, Deanna Miskolczi. “As soon as one community event is over, Charlie is already talking about the next one!” 

In December 2023, Charlie was recognized with a Volunteer Recognition Award from the Prairie Central District for Sport, Culture and Recreation. Congratulations, Charlie! 

National Volunteer Week April 14-20

Saskatchewan’s 330,000 volunteers are a vital part of the foundation that makes up Saskatchewan’s sport, culture and recreation system. From April 14-20, celebrated under the theme of “Every Moment Matters,” volunteers will be recognized nationwide for their contributions. For 50 years, Sask Lotteries has funded volunteer led sport, culture and recreation programs in the province and it is through the contribution of volunteers that we can make a difference.

Sask Lotteries knows that every second a volunteer gives to the community, an innumerable number of individuals feel the impact. As part of the celebration, Sask Lotteries, along with Sask Sport is saying thank you to the volunteers in Saskatchewan, who help make the 12,000 lottery-funded sport, culture and recreation activities possible.

When thanking volunteers on social media, organizations are encouraged to use the hashtags: #NVW2024, #EveryMomentMatters.

For more information on the week and access to National Volunteer Week assets, check out SaskSport.ca

Q & A with Special Olympics Lloydminster 

Special Olympics Lloydminster, a Sask Lotteries funded organization, prioritizes the accessibility of sport in their local community. They have subsidized fees and will cover costs for athletes and their families who otherwise could not participate. The organization offers diverse programs, which allows every individual the opportunity to enjoy sport at their desired level. 

Marianne Witzaney, Volunteer Coordinator with Special Olympics Lloydminster, spoke with Sask Lotteries to provide more insight about Special Olympics Lloydminster through a Q & A.  

What opportunities are offered by your organization?  

Our organization offers Bowling and a Fitness/Walking Track Program. We are the only sport and fitness organization for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in. We have 85 registered athletes.  Not all our athletes can bowl so we started a Fitness/Walking track program.  

We have 60 enrolled in our bowling program and 25 in the Fitness/Walking track program.  

Our bowlers are invited to join us on the track every Thursday evening, with an average of 35 athletes per week participating in the Fitness/Walking track program. Both programs provide physical and social opportunities that are essential for the well-being and mental health of our participants. 

How has Sask Lotteries funding impacted Special Olympics Lloydminster? 

All our participants live on a fixed income, and many do not have family to help them out. Funding from Sask Lotteries subsidizes over half of their bowling fees and fitness/walking track fees. As a result, Special Olympics Lloydminster has been able to be all inclusive and provide a strong program. 

How have you seen participants benefit from Sask Lotteries funding?  

Because of Sask Lotteries funding we have been able to provide a strong bowling and fitness/walking track program and have been able to make it all inclusive. We still do have some individuals that cannot afford to pay any fees and through our own fundraising we can help these individuals out.   

With Sask Lotteries funding we are able to make the programs more competitive by providing small prizes and incentives for the athletes. 

Can you share a memory from your time with Special Olympics Lloydminster? 

In our Fitness/Walking track program, we have participants that walk, run & others who participate in wheelchairs. Every week we track the number of laps the participants do and encourage them to do more. One of our athletes is 80 years old and had a serious injury a few years ago and now requires a walker for support.   

She says she needs to walk 10 laps every week so she can get a ribbon again this year.  She is an inspiration to all of us. 

Sask Lotteries celebrates 50 years of support sport, culture and recreation

Sask Lotteries is celebrating 50 years as the main fundraiser for more than 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups in communities across Saskatchewan.

Since 1974, lottery sales in Saskatchewan have been used to provide more than $1.4 billion to support athletes from the grassroots level to the international stage, connect youth to artistic experiences, help residents experience the beauty of the parks that cover the province and much more.  

The funding is made possible thanks to a long-standing agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan to direct proceeds from the sale of lottery products to sport, culture and recreation organizations.

“Sask Lotteries funding has touched every community across Saskatchewan during the last 50 years,” said Bill Kinash, Chair, Sask Sport and Sask Lotteries volunteer-led Board of Directors. “Almost everyone I speak to has seen their lives positively impacted by this fundraiser. We cannot wait to see what the next 50 years will bring.”

Throughout 2024, Sask Lotteries will celebrate its rich history in the province and share the stories of the beneficiaries of this fundraiser on its website and social media through winning numbers. Some of these winning numbers include celebrating the 196 Saskatchewan athletes who have attended the Olympic and Paralympic Games since 1976, multiple opportunities for cultural activities create over 1.6 million participants annually and the over 430 regional and community park spaces across the province. The 1,000 retailers across the province will also be celebrated for their part in the lottery sales that help generate the distributed funds.

Sask Lotteries has a humble beginning.  

To help fundraise against the rising costs of amateur sport, Sask Sport, a volunteer-led organization, wanted to run a lottery. To be granted the lottery licence by the Government of Saskatchewan, founding volunteers Cas Pielak and Joe Kanuka agreed to sign a promissory note to help start a lottery fundraising program. The first lottery in Saskatchewan was a success and eventually led to the Western Canada Lottery Corporation being established.  In 1974, it was determined that the funds would be placed into the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund and would be distributed to sport, culture and recreation groups as designated by the Government of Saskatchewan.

This arrangement remains, 50 years later.

Saskatchewan Multicultural Week

The Government of Saskatchewan, Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan (MCoS), and many municipalities celebrate Saskatchewan Multicultural Week from November 18-26 as an opportunity to recognize our diversity, the benefits of multiculturalism, and demonstrate the five streams of multicultural work that are at the basis of our ongoing efforts at creating communities where everyone feels a sense of belonging and is able to fully contribute.

This year’s theme – “Celebrate Community, Honour Diversity, Act for Equity” encourages us to share and celebrate stories of community, diversity and equity that enrich Saskatchewan communities.

The Saskatchewan Multiculturalism Act, recognizes the rights of every community to retain its identity, language and traditional arts and sciences for the mutual benefit of all citizens. MCoS further promotes the need to address racism and injustice, and to celebrate our diversity as collective strength in building welcoming and inclusive communities.

Learn more about the week’s activities on spra.sk.ca.

Community Rink Affordability Grant Program

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross on behalf of Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross joined officials from the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association (SPRA) and community members in Prince Albert to celebrate the opening of the Community Rink Affordability Grant Program. The Government of Saskatchewan has committed $1.6 million in 2023-24 for the program which provides funding for community-owned indoor skating and curling rinks.

“The Community Rink Affordability Grant program plays an important role in building healthy communities and protecting our local infrastructure,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said. “These rinks are a focal point for many communities and offer a wide variety of programming year-round. This grant helps with costs associated with running locally owned rinks, and ensures they remain operational in our communities for years
to come.”

In 2022-23, a total of the 581 ice surfaces received funding, including 376 skating rinks and 205 curling rinks. A $2,500 grant is available for each ice surface, per year for municipally owned facilities, schools, Indigenous communities and non-profit organizations.

“The Community Rink Affordability Grant helps build communities across the province with support from volunteers at every level,” Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross said. “These spaces are well used by families, youth and seniors, with programming that protects the great quality of life we enjoy in our province.”

The SPRA administers and delivers the program on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan.

“We are grateful to the government for their continued support of Saskatchewan’s recreation infrastructure, recognizing its pivotal role in enhancing quality of life in the province,” SPRA President Jody Boulet said. “As communities face increased costs due to inflation, including those related to maintaining vital gathering spaces like rinks, the Community Recreation Affordability Grant Program is a welcome contribution.”

To learn more and register for the Community Rink Affordability Grant program, please complete the online form found on the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association’s website at https://www.spra.sk.ca/funding/our-grants/.

Applications can be submitted until January 15, 2024.

Mark Bracken retires after 38 years in sport and recreation

Mark Bracken has spent the past 38 years dedicating himself to Saskatchewan sport and recreation. After nearly four decades of commitment, Bracken has announced he will step into retirement as of March 31, 2024.  

In 1988, Bracken began what would be a long and successful career in sport and recreation. Working as the Zone 5 Sport Coordinator, he helped prepare teams for the 1988 Saskatchewan Summer Games in Melfort, the 1990 Saskatchewan Winter Games in Melville and the 1992 Saskatchewan Summer Games in Prince Albert. 

Bracken joined the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association after relocating to Regina in 1992 and spent six years as a Recreation Consultant. From 1998-2014 he joined Sask Sport and contributed to various roles within the organization. Over 17 years, he was involved with KidSport, sponsorship, sport funding, sport legacy funding and coaching development, before being named Executive Director of the Coaches Association of Saskatchewan in 2008.  

In 2014, the final step of his career brought him to the Saskatchewan Games Council as Executive Director, where he remained an integral member for ten years.  

Bracken’s passion for sport reaches beyond his career and led to his involvement with numerous volunteer opportunities. He attended 12 Canada Games where he served various times as Chef de Mission, Assistant Chef de Mission and mission staff. Since 1988, he has assisted in 10 Saskatchewan Games, attended the North American Indigenous Games and several editions of the Tony Cote Games. 

Renewed lottery agreement benefits Saskatchewan communities

This afternoon, the Government of Saskatchewan, Sask Sport, SaskCulture and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association signed a renewed lottery distribution agreement, continuing a longstanding and successful partnership.

The renewed agreement guarantees that proceeds from lottery ticket sales will continue to support sport, culture and recreation across the province for the next six years. Saskatchewan has authorized lottery tickets to be used as a dedicated fundraiser for sport, culture and recreation since 1974.

“Lottery funding ultimately touches every person in our province, whether it’s getting active in sports and recreational activities, experiencing the creative arts, or participating in cultural events that celebrate our diversity,” Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said. “These programs are made possible through our partners and a vast network of community volunteers, who deliver experiences that help make Saskatchewan the best places to live, work and raise a family.”  

Funding from Sask Lotteries benefits over 12,000 sport, culture and recreation groups throughout the province. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, approximately $60 million from the Sask Lotteries Trust Fund was granted to organizations across Saskatchewan.

“On behalf of Sask Sport and its volunteers, I am grateful for the continued partnership of a lottery agreement with the Government of Saskatchewan,” Sask Sport Chair Michael Rogers said. “As a parent and participant in sport, every day I see how the funds generated through the agreement benefit Saskatchewan residents and positively impacts communities. A multi-year agreement gives stability for planning for all beneficiary groups to continue creating opportunities that make Saskatchewan vibrant for everyone.”

“Lottery funding is so important to ensuring that cultural activity adds to the quality of life of individuals and families in this province,” SaskCulture Board Chair Jan Seibel said. “From attending a musical to learning a traditional dance, or joining a writing group, or perhaps, exploring a museum, many people look forward to accessing cultural programs, events and services as a regular part of their lives.  As a whole, these types of activities help shape the Saskatchewan experience.  We are very pleased with the renewal of this agreement, and government’s commitment to helping ensure that an even greater diversity of peoples can engage in cultural and creative pursuits that contribute to a culturally vibrant province.”

“The government’s continued support of recreation, culture, and sport speaks volumes about the value created by our industries’ collective work,” Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association Board President, Jody Boulet said that. “We are honoured to be tasked with enhancing quality of life for Saskatchewan people through parks and recreation for another six years and beyond.”

The agreement allows continued investments in strategic priority areas, such as engaging diverse and equity-deserving populations; supporting access to safe and welcoming sport, culture and recreation communities; and encouraging well-being and active lifestyles.