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Memorial fund offers adventure
Fund established in memory of son exposes teens to empowering activities

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, April 18, 2016

Empowerment through adventure is the focus of a fund to support Nunavut youth in memory of a special person.

NNSL photo/graphic

This past February three youths from Cambridge Bay Sebastian Malone, left, Lee Ann Ekpakohalok and Ethan Gillis-Kaiyogana travelled to Ottawa for a week-long national program, titled Encounters With Canada, thanks to the Ayalik Fund. - photo courtesy of Laurie Pelly

The Ayalik Fund grows each month, a memorial to the love of two parents for their child.

Created by David and Laurie Pelly in the aftermath of the sudden death of their beloved son Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly, whom they adopted as a toddler in Cambridge Bay, the fund is intended to provide what the Pellys hope will be empowering adventures for Nunavut youth.

Eric, 19, died of sudden cardiac arrhythmia in his sleep on Dec. 30, 2014.

In the 16 months since Eric's death, the fund has sponsored five youths from Cambridge Bay - and plans are in the works for four more - to experience the types of challenging and rewarding opportunities the Pellys know helped their son grow into an accomplished young man.

At the outset, the young people the Ayalik Fund sponsors learn why they get to travel outside Nunavut, experience some of the world and meet challenges head on.

"We have a teleconference and Donna (Olsen-Hakongak) brings them together in Cambridge Bay and I spend 15 minutes talking about Eric, about the Ayalik Fund. So they know. And the kids are moved by that. They understand they are celebrating Eric's contribution," said David Pelly.

"It celebrates his short life. He was going to do great things in life. He'd made it. He'd gotten through. It's tough. He's adopted. He came out of difficult circumstances. He faced a lot of challenges. He made it through them - through his own hard work, with our support and with the opportunities these sorts of programs gave him."

In the summer of 2015, Shania Angohiatok and Ian Kavanna, the first two youths the fund sponsored, participated in a Rocky Mountain expedition with Outward Bound.

Kavanna, says Pelly, wasn't doing very well in school last year, and he was starting to skip school - not uncommon for a 16-year-old boy.

"He came back - and I'm not going to say the Ayalik Fund deserves all the credit or anything like that but who knows - he came back and he's a good student. He's coming in all the time. And at some point in the fall he volunteered to be in the mentoring program. Which means after school he goes over to the junior school and helps the younger kids with their homework," said Pelly.

The Pelly approach is one youth at a time.

"Right from the start, and it was Laurie who put it into words, is we've got to target one kid at a time. We're not going to give money to the GN for youth programs. This is not what it's about."

Pelly says the criteria of the fund are important, adding it's about seeing their own potential, potential they may not be aware of.

"That's what it's all about. The high school is already sending its all-stars down. The high school already offers that opportunity. The kids who are shining students, the top-of-the-class students, are already going. That's great. Now we want to take the kids who would like to do it but don't really have the opportunity. It's not that they're not smart or anything like that. But they don't have the confidence to put themselves forward."

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