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Driving home literacy
Gzowski golf tournament returns to Rankin Inlet

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Putters and smiles were everywhere as Rankin Inlet hosted the Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) Golf Tournament for Literacy this past week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Pujjuut Kusugak tries hard not to shank a furry putt during the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament for Literacy in Rankin Inlet this past week. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

Seven teams, with four or five golfers caddied by students from Simon Alaittuq School, braved -30 C temps with the windchill to take to the course.

In addition to the golf tourney, guest celebrities visited area schools to share time with students, and a penny sale and music concert were held to raise additional funds.

Event organizer Adriana Kusugak of the Nunavut Literacy Council said the event alternates each year between communities in Nunavut and the NWT.

She said the last time Rankin hosted the PGI was in 2007.

"I had some people help me with the planning and organizing, and the hamlet was really great in constructing the golf course," said Kusugak.

"Guys from the recreation department and the hamlet garage created the course and they did an awesome job.

"Maybe I'm being a little biased, but I think it was the best PGI golf course ever.

"We're just super thankful to them for the great job they did with it."

Among the celebrities to take part in this year's event were Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias, media personality Shelagh Rogers, Alison Gzowski (the late broadcaster's daughter), Russell deCarle of the band Prairie Oyster, Nunavut Language Commissioner Sandra Inutiq and world renowned harmonica player Mike Stevens.

Kusugak said Stevens taught about 20 children a bit about playing the harp during his school visit.

She said another guest celebrity benefited from the musician's teaching abilities a number of years ago.

"One of our celebrities from Arviat, Abraham Eetak, actually learned how to play harmonica from Mike Stevens in the past.

"Neither of them knew the other was coming to the PGI, so it was kind of a small world in how it worked out that way."

Kusugak said the Rankin business and corporate communities were "awesome" with their donations to this year's PGI.

She said the Literacy Council can't thank the Rankin business community enough for the generosity shown toward the event.

"They gave items to the penny sale, donated to the PGI fundraising and provided a lot of in-kind support, as well.

"Rankin always steps up to the plate when it comes to supporting a good cause."

The money raised for literacy during the PGI event is distributed throughout Nunavut, but a large number of the most recent literacy programs have been run in Rankin Inlet.

Kusugak said you always hope for the best when holding a fundraiser, and Rankin came through big time.

She said donations will continue to come in until about the end of this month, at which time she'll be able to release the total amount raised during the PGI.

"It was a packed house for the concert and that was great to see. We had a real mix of artists performing - young, old, some from the south and some from Nunavut.

"A couple of members from the Iqaluit group The Trade-offs came and performed, so the concert drew a lot of different people in.

"The show was really well attended with a good

mix of younger students and older adults all enjoying the music."

Kusugak said in addition to raising much needed program funding, the PGI raises awareness on the need to improve literacy.

She said the importance of the awareness factor can, unfortunately, sometimes be overlooked.

"When we send out sponsorship packages, we

include an information booklet on literacy rates and how improved literacy can help our whole economy. So, in that way, we're helping to educate people, but the programs we offer tend to reach out more to the grassroots level.

"The programs have a positive effect on families, and it trickles down to their children and overall attitude towards literacy from there."

Kusugak said southern celebrities were good sports about dealing with the freezing temperatures on the golf course.

She said they were a bit hesitant to play earlier

in the day, but they turned out to be real troopers when

the time came to start the PGI.

"This really is such an important cause because it allows us to keep looking at non-formal, community-based programs that makes literacy accessible to everyone.

"We've been weaving in the cultural context to literacy learning through things like the miqqut project and amauti-making program.

"There's a real engagement in learning with the approach, because it's something adult learners are interested in and want to learn about, so that allows us to take those opportunities and create literacy activities out of them.

"Our research shows the outcome to be extremely successful."

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