Saskatoon athletes keeping northern Sask. wildfire evacuees active

Watch above: Saskatoon athletes are taking time out of their day to help entertain evacuees and keep everyone active while away from home. Wendy Winiewski reports.

SASKATOON – Residents threatened by northern Saskatchewan wildfires and smoke began evacuating on June 25. Many arrived with the shirts on their backs, and little else. Bonnie Henderson, from Montreal Lake, arrived Monday with her three young children.

“We didn’t really bring anything. We weren’t ready to evacuate,” explained Henderson.

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The family is staying at the Henk Ruys Soccer Centre in Saskatoon. With 650 people, the evacuation centre is at capacity. Occupying the time of hundreds of evacuated children requires creativity, according to Henderson.

“When it’s hot like this I usually take my kids to the hose or the swimming pool,” said Henderson who’s using two large plastic containers as a makeshift paddling pool.

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A game of flag football Thursday afternoon at the evacuation centre is welcome relief from the boredom. It was arranged by the Saskatchewan Minor Football Association with the help of the Saskatoon Valkyries and the Saskatoon Hilltops.

It’s something Beth Thompson, coach of the Valkyries, said they just wanted to help.

“Trying to get them out, have some fun, maybe take their mind off of what might be happening at home and keep them active,” said Thompson.

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It’s also an opportunity for the local football stars to share their love of the game, according to Evan Turkington, a receiver for the Saskatoon Hilltops.

“Football is an unreal team game and it teaches a lot of team lessons so hopefully they pick some stuff up but hopefully they just have some fun,” said Turkington.

The Red Cross has also arranged activities including bingo, face painting and children’s games.