A Nunavut fund that helps send youth on summer and fall adventures had its first participants from the Kivalliq region this summer.

In July, Dwayne Innukshuk, known as Ozzie, and Trevor Anawak set out from Rankin Inlet for a 10-day trek through the Rocky Mountains.

The trip was facilitated by Outward Bound Canada and funded by the Ayalik Fund, which was established in 2015 and expanded to the Kivalliq region this year.

David and Laurie Pelly started the initiative to commemorate their son, Eric Ayalik Okalitana Pelly, who died at age 19 of sudden cardiac arrhythmia. The couple adopted Eric as a toddler in Cambridge Bay, which is where they would later start the fund.

“It was always our intent to expand to other regions, but we wanted to be careful not to grow faster than we can manage,” David Pelly said, adding he hopes the fund will be able to expand even further in the future and reach youth in Baffin communities as well.

The year it started, the fund sent two youth to summer programs. Now into its third summer, Pelly says the number of youth participating is in the teens.

This year, with help from First Air, the Ayalik Fund was able to send youth on Outward Bound courses, a tall ship, canoe trips, an on-the-land Northern Youth Forum and a Gana River camp in the Mackenzie Mountains.

Although Innukshuk and Anawak were the only two from the Kivalliq region to participate this year, Pelly said the fund has been working with a Rankin Inlet woman, Jessie Baxter, to reach out to youth in other communities for next year.

“(Rankin) was our first step out,” he said.

“We hope to expand to other communities, absolutely – and expansion on both ends of the formula. We want to expand the number of communities and kids, and we would also like to expand our menu of opportunities.”

This year’s expansion to the Kivalliq region was possible in part due to the partnership between First Air and the Ayalik Fund.

Pelly said the airline gave them discounted airfare for all the youth who travelled in 2017.

“It’s wonderful that they’re on board. The great thing about that is we could send more kids,” he said.

“It’s one of the reasons we were able to expand this summer and send significantly more kids than we did even last year.”

Baxter, Innukshuk and Anawak were unavailable for interviews at press time.