When the Winnipeg Jets secured their spot in the 2023 playoff season, the teams at True North Sports & Entertainment and Economic Development Winnipeg worked feverishly behind-the-scenes to mount the third iteration of the Winnipeg Whiteout Street Parties.
Launched in 2018 as a way for Winnipeggers to gather in support of our hometown team during the playoffs, the Street Parties made a comeback in 2019 and again in 2023. Fueled by Winnipeggers' remarkable spirit, these Parties have boosted civic pride, bolstered the local economy and directed significant donations to United Way Winnipeg, all while showcasing Winnipeg as the cosmopolitan, can-do city it is.
This year, for the third installment of the Parties, Winnipeggers once again filled the street adjacent to Canada Life Centre twice to watch games on giant pop-up screens, and enjoy entertainment, refreshments and the spirit of togetherness. The Parties generated palpable enthusiasm to energize our Winnipeg Jets, as well as valuable donations for United Way Winnipeg.
“Of course, we would have loved the playoff season to go on longer than it did for our Winnipeg Jets, but the two Street Parties we hosted in conjunction with the home games were electric, providing opportunities for Winnipeggers to gather and connect,” said Dayna Spiring, former President & CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg. “Ten thousand Winnipeggers descended on downtown to celebrate and cheer on their beloved team while showing the world how to stage a great party – with a purpose."
Revelers paid a $10 admission fee, half of which defrayed the cost of mounting these monumental events (think permits, entertainment and staging, screens, lighting, security, staffing and more) while the remaining half of the proceeds were donated to United Way Winnipeg.
“Through the generosity of Winnipeggers, we were able to donate $50,000, which has been disbursed to five deserving agencies in support of our city’s most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” said Kevin Donnelly, Vice President, Venues & Entertainment, True North Sports + Entertainment. “The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the health and vibrancy of our downtown, and of downtowns everywhere, so it was very important to us that the Parties encourage people to re-discover the area, while making a difference.”
This summer, Michael Richardson, President & CEO of United Way Winnipeg, led Spiring and Donnelly on a walking tour of three of the five grassroots agencies benefitting from the Parties' donations. The tour was designed to spotlight the incredible work United Way agencies do every day to address growing needs, including working to end homelessness and addictions, while serving our city's vulnerable populations with dignity and compassion.
“United Way Winnipeg is proud to partner with True North Sports + Entertainment and Economic Development Winnipeg to support critically needed services in our community,” said Richardson. “This would not have been possible without all the fans who showed up to cheer on the Winnipeg Jets while at the same time raising funds for organizations that support those who are most vulnerable in our community.”
Teams from the selected United Way agencies have identified specific projects that will benefit from the funds. Here is an overview of the five recipient organizations and their projects:
- Astum Api Niikinaahk: This innovative organization features 22 homes located in a previously vacant field adjacent to Thunderbird House and The Salvation Army on Main Street. The organization provides important programming for people transitioning out of homelessness. The team plans to use the funds to construct a sweat lodge on site, which requires building materials such as poles, firewood and cloth, as well as food and tobacco.
- Bruce Oake Recovery Centre: The Bruce Oake Recovery Centre provides long-term residential care and addiction treatment for adult males struggling with drugs and alcohol. The donated funds will help defray the cost associated with a treatment stay for an individual experiencing addiction. At Bruce Oake, no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay, and sliding scale pricing is available to create equity and increase access to science-based treatment.
- Main Street Project: In 2022, MSP marked 50 years providing emergency shelter and support to people experiencing homelessness, addiction and poverty. MSP plans to use its Whiteout Street Parties donation to hire individuals from the community through its MOTS program (Mission Off The Streets) to perform community clean-up on a regular basis. The agency has proposed and is examining a variety of ways to reduce garbage and improve neighbourhood cleanliness, as this is important to feelings of safety, comfort, dignity and pride.
- N’Dinawemak - Our Relatives' Place: The first of its kind, this Indigenous-led community resource occupies a 90,000-sq.ft building at the base of the Disraeli Freeway and offers a 24/7 space for people experiencing homelessness. The facility has 140 beds for overnight stays, and provides food and clothing, as well as culturally appropriate services and programming. The agency will use their funds to install a commercial washer and dryer for those staying there to use, and the team will purchase blankets, bedding and other personal items for people transitioning into housing.
- Velma’s House – Ka Ni Kanichihk: Velma’s House is a place of safety, comfort and connection for women experiencing homelessness. The team will use the funds to purchase groceries for their drop-in space, which offers a wide range of supports, including hot meals.