WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Dolores Naponse is a little worried about how far she will have to launch her “baby pitch”.
The 72-year-old from Atikameksheng Anishnawbeck, near Sudbury, Ont., will throw the ceremonial first pitch Friday in Toronto during the Major League Baseball game between the Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox.
Naponse, a residential school survivor, was invited to launch the pitch by the Jays Care Foundation as part of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation au Canada.
Other survivors of the residential school system and their families will be in the stands, along with 250 children from the Jays Care Foundation Indigenous Rookie League programming.
This is how Naponse is involved. His grandsons Jeffrey and Keewehtn played baseball on one of the teams last year.
“I think it’s a really good thing what Jays Care is doing for our kids,” Naponse said, adding that 28 kids from his First Nation have applied to play baseball with the league.
The Indigenous Rookie League encourages participants to focus less on skill level and more on engaging their community.
Naponse said it was a good way to keep children away from their screens after the peak of the pandemic.
“Bringing them to baseball was a good thing for them.
“It was so exciting to see all the grandparents, moms and dads getting involved with their kids again,” she added.
Naponse will bring her entire family with her to Friday’s game.
“We’re all excited right now, because I’ve never been in a [Blue Jays] front game. Well, I haven’t been to Toronto for a long time. »
Naponse said she was nervous about throwing the ball during the ceremonial pitch and admits she asked organizers how far she will have to throw the ball.
“They assured me it wouldn’t be that difficult.”
Jays honor ‘lives touched’
In a Press releasethe Blue Jays and Jays Care Foundation said “to honor survivors and all lives touched by the residential school system, Blue Jays employees will wear orange ‘Every Child Matters’ shirts and orange t-shirt pins, and the Survivors flag will be featured prominently throughout the stadium.”
They added that in recognition of the more than 70 Indigenous languages spoken across the country, Tsuaki Marule, a professor at Red Crow Community College of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, will perform the Canadian anthem in Blackfoot. , in English and French.
The Jays Care Foundation is donating $150,000 to Indigenous-led organizations to support their vital work with survivors and their families.
“I know the feeling of being there. I know the feeling of loss and loneliness,” Naponse said of his attendance at Spanish Indian boarding school in the early 1960s.
She said she lost a lot of self-esteem and confidence after being forced into an institution as a child, and thinks she blocked out a lot of memories.
“I don’t remember going to school.
“I remember going to bed at night and a lot of us were crying at different times of the night,” she said.
As for marking the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Naponse said it was important for everyone to learn about the painful history.
“For me, this is an important day because we need to be educated about what happened in our First Nations and about our people who went to those schools, and all the children who were buried there and who have recently been found.
“I’m concerned about the intergenerational effects of residential schools because I know how much it has changed me,” Naponse said.
“Right now, I’m in a better place.”
Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience or recent reports.
A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counseling and crisis support is also available 24/7 through the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.