When Saskatoon runner Tarrant Cross Child heard about the suicide crisis rocking northern Saskatchewan in 2015 he knew he had to do something.
Just months earlier, Cross Child, a member of the Blackfoot Tribe from the Blood Reserve in Alberta, had completed a year-long in-residence rehabilitation program for alcohol and gambling addiction. One of the bright lights during that time was a delivery of gently used shoes from Brainsport. Cross Child kept a pair and gave the rest to others going through treatment with him. Amid so much hopelessness, they started running together and relished in the feeling of being sober, active and healthy.
Cross Child wanted to bring that same joy to youth in northern Saskatchewan, so asked Brainsport owner Brian Michasiw for some more gently used shoes. In the fall of 2015, Cross Child travelled to Cumberland House and led a running clinic. He shared his story, gave kids shoes and hosted a small race, complete with a finish line banner. He had barely wrapped up the clinic when other northern communities reached out asking him to please pay them a visit too.
“Just like how I got help when I was in rehab with a pair of running shoes, we did that in Cumberland House,” Cross Child said.
The clinics were a family affair, with Cross Child’s wife and children helping out. The more they travelled, the more people took notice. Businesses donated money and equipment and soon the Cross Childs were grateful for a donated trailer that allowed them to bring a donated sound system, projector, finish arch and time clock with them to host pep rallies, run clinics and races. They travelled across northern Saskatchewan and visited schools in Saskatoon. Wherever they went, they pledged to return and keep sending shoes.
“We don’t want to just go in and do a run clinic and leave,” Cross Child said. “We want it to be a lifelong experience for the community.”
Cross Child remembers early on someone asking what his organization was called. The question caught him off guard because he didn’t have an organization; he and his family were just sharing their love of running.
But as more people wanted to help, to write cheques, Cross Child realized what he was doing needed a name and Child of the Cross Run Clinics was born in 2016.
And now, that organization has gone through a rebrand.
Before Cross Child’s life was consumed by addictions, he worked as an installer with Braid Flooring and Window Fashions. With his life back on track, Cross Child paired up with Christian Braid, his former boss, last year to found Prairie Flooring, a First Nations-majority-owned company that aims to create training and career opportunities in Indigenous communities. It also strives to give back to communities where it does business.
It made sense to dovetail Cross Child’s two passions and, this spring, Child of the Cross Run Clinics was reborn as Prairie Run Crew Outreach Program, which is supported by Prairie Flooring.
The Cross Childs had planned to spend much of the year hosting clinics in northern Saskatchewan, but the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold.
Instead, the Cross Childs have spent the last six months training volunteers to host run clinics and organized free running clinics in Saskatoon in August. Cross Child said it was a bit nerve wracking to organize the clinics given all the COVID-19 protocols that needed to be followed, but he knew the pandemic made the clinics more important than ever.
“During these COVID times, how much more do people need physical activity than now?” Cross Child says. He says that while people may have been nervous at the beginning of the day, before long everyone seemed to have forgotten about the pandemic.
“At the end, no one wanted to leave,” he said.
For more information on Prairie Run Crew Outreach Program, visit its website.