TORONTO 2015 PAN AM/PARAPAN AM GAMES I was born in Saskatoon and we moved to Alberta right away. My father’s from a reservation just outside North Battleford… (Dallas Soonias, Opposite Spiker, Canadian Senior Men’s Volleyball Team and proud Aboriginal Canadian) …called Red Pheasant, so he’s Cree. (Dallas Soonias, Opposite Spiker, Canadian Senior Men’s Volleyball Team and proud Aboriginal Canadian) And my mom’s from a reserve on the Bruce Peninsula, not far from here. It’s called Neyaashiinigmiing, she’s Ojibwa, so I’m a mix of those two. Are you a role model for Aboriginal youth in Canada? Well, I never used to think about it that much, but slowly over the years I got emails and messages from Aboriginal kids and parents saying, “Hey, we love what you’re doing. You’re a great role model for our kids.” Well, that feels great, you know, so now I’m a little older and I feel a responsibility to… …not so much give them something to shoot for…something… …something that they can work on, to go higher and go farther than what I have. How did you first become interested in playing volleyball? Well, me and my brother played basketball growing up and we both kind of did it non-stop, you know. I played volleyball one year to stay in shape for basketball season and I ended up liking it a lot as a new challenge… …so I ended up sticking with that, and I kind of just played year-round since Grade nine. Me and my brother, he played basketball, and I played volleyball. How do you actively engage with Aboriginal youth? I got back from an Aboriginal community two weeks ago. It took me two days to fly out there and I was there 27 hours. We played some volleyball. So I try to go to as many reservations as I can. Is it difficult for Aboriginal youth in Canada to participate in sports? Most reservations are way up north, you know. So it’s difficult to come to tournaments and get proper coaching and stuff. People are doing the best they can. People will go and do camps whenever they can, stuff like that, but… …it’s just the isolation I say, and sometimes it’s a mentality, that it’s probably not attainable… …but it totally is, you know what I mean? So that’s what I’m trying to get people to understand. I’ve thought about it this year, about where I would have been if I hadn’t gone after something. I probably would have been in Red Deer doing something I didn’t like. And probably not being a very positive person in general, so I’m very thankful. There is no reason that I should be where I am now, and I’m very thankful that I went for it. Yeah, it was so great today. I don’t know if you saw but I had some cousins here from my mom’s reservation… …and my uncle’s out there somewhere. I got to go find him ’cause he’s never seen me play volleyball. [Interviewer: Well maybe we’ll let you go and try and find him. Maybe we’ll follow you along.] Great! Let’s go find him. LEAD PARTNER, CIBC…FUNDING PARTIES, GOVERNMENTS OF CANADA/ONTARIO VIVA PAN AM!