Jeannie Arreak-Kullualik has been one of the most familiar faces to anyone who has been involved in volleyball in Nunavut for any length of time.
Arreak-Kullualik, who’s originally from Pond Inlet, was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer of the blood – and is currently undergoing treatment in Ottawa to fight the disease, and that’s where Volleyball Nunavut comes in.
The board held a fundraiser for Arreak-Kullualik where one-of-a-kind T-shirts and clothing were sold. When it concluded on June 10, $10,000 worth of gear had been purchased with every penny of it going directly to Arreak-Kullualik.
Volleyball Nunavut’s fundraiser was in addition to a GoFundMe account set up for Arreak-Kullualik, which had raised more than $9,000 as of June 17.
Shylah Elliott, Volleyball Nunavut’s president, said the response was more than she could have asked for.
“It’s just awesome to see the volleyball family give back to someone who’s given so much to the sport herself,” she said. “Her family has been involved with the sport for so long and Jeannie helped get Volleyball Nunavut up and running. We owe her a lot of thanks and this was our small way of doing that.”
Arreak-Kullualik is still part of the board, serving as vice-president.
Elliott said a total of 160 T-shirts and 100 hoodies were sold between May 26 and June 10.
The printing was done shortly after the fundraiser came to an end and the clothing is being shipped out in the coming days.
“We had to pull the plug on the 10th (of June),” said Elliott. “We did have a few late requests but we didn’t order a pre-set amount.”
Orders came in from around the country — from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador, she added, showing just how well-loved Arreak-Kullualik is.
The images emblazoned on the T-shirts and hoodies — of a male and female player jumping for a kill in front of the Nunavut flag — were designed by a board member and approved by the board before production. The back of each shirt has a special logo featuring a volleyball and Arreak-Kullualik’s initials.
Elliott said the design had been in the hands of the board for a while, just waiting for the right time to use it.
“It’s a beautiful design and I’m proud of what we produced,” she said. “We wanted to save it for a special occasion and there’s no better way to use it than for this.”
Elliott also said the board approached the family first to get the green light before moving ahead.
The $10,000 has already been handed over to Arreak-Kullualik and in a Facebook post on June 14, Arreak-Kullualik said she was thankful for everything Volleyball Nunavut had done to support her.
“Moral, spiritual, financial, all the messages,” she said. “We are overwhelmed and emotional. We can’t thank you enough. It’s been hard to put (into) words and show how much we appreciate all of your support.”
She also said she and her husband, Kevin Kullualik, will probably be in Ottawa until at least December for treatment and the help she’s getting will go toward taking care of expenses back home in Iqaluit.