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Toronto Catholic District School Board

Project Ultimate Survivors 2012

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   (PC Michelle Tasse with Survivor Man, Les Stroud from Project Ultimate Survivor 2012)


Project Ultimate Survivors (Project US) which culminated on June 8th and 9th 2012 is a Toronto Police Service (TPS) 41 Division project created by PC Michelle Tassé and PC Michael Seaban in collaboration with numerous other divisional officers, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and other outdoor professionals.


PC Michelle Tassé is the School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School. The primary goal of the SRO program is to establish positive relationships through an active uniform presence in the school community.  Officers are to take a proactive approach with students and school administration to build healthy and trusting relationships.

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As a result PC Tassé created this project within Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School. This unique initiative was designed with a primary goal of breaking down the barriers between police and youth.  Its secondary goal was to encourage teamwork, build character, promote respect and foster self-worth among young urban at risk/marginalized youth of varying backgrounds while providing them with the opportunity to experience a wilderness adventure with police officers.


Officers participating in this initiative assisted in a mentoring capacity bridging lessons of wilderness survival taught by outdoor professionals Les Stroud (Survivorman) and his mentor David Arama (Wilderness Survival School).  During the course of the project students received training in fire building, shelter building, compass navigation and GPS orienteering.


To prepare for the program’s culmination challenge, Sgt. Lawson of the Public Safety Unit (PSU), with the assistance of Sgt. Philip Glavin of the Training & Education Unit and PC Kristopher McCarthy of the Mounted Unit, designed and implemented a two day seminar held in May 2012.


This two day training sessions prior to the culmination was designed to teach Project US participants (police, students and teachers) in the uses of compass, map reading and GPS navigation while using a combination of in class instruction and practical exercises hosted at Blessed Cardinal Newman Catholic High School.


With the overwhelming number of police volunteers, twenty four police officers and thirteen volunteer teachers and Project coordinators were able to form four teams of 13 members for the culmination challenge.  Each team consisted of 6 youth, 4 police officers and 3 teachers.  Each team was provided a team name, colour and t-shirt, each team was named after a Canadian animal, Moose, Bear, Loon, and Beaver.


On Saturday June 8th students and teachers boarded the bus at Cardinal Newman Catholic High School with hope, excitement, sun block and bug spray.  Ready to take on the day the bus detoured to the Victoria Park McDonald’s where each of 70 participants were provided with a McDonald’s breakfast at no charge. Arriving at Greenwood Conservation Area students were greeted by police officers in and out of uniform.  Each student stepping off the bus had a huge smile on their face ready to take on the day.


The day began with a greeting from PC Michelle Tassé, some words of support from Toronto Police Deputy Chief Peter Sloly and a hurrah from Survivorman himself, Les Stroud.  To open the events for the next two days, Scugog First Nations Elders Harold Askewe and Leona Charles provided a Ceremonial cleansing and smudging.


Teams were then selected and all gathered around the fire pit for a photo and a ceremonial “lighting of the fire”.   Inspector James MacKrell, Les Stroud, Scugog First Nations Elder Harold Askewe and a student (hand-picked by Les Stroud) were given lit tiki torches and together they lit the larger camp fire.  This was done as a symbolic tribute to the project purpose and the coming together of organizations for its common goal.


Once the opening ceremonies were done two groups went with Les Stroud and two groups went with David Arama to learn methods of fire building.  Once they had the opportunity to practice each of the taught methods, each team was challenged with being the first to create flame and burn down a ribbon propped above the fires.


Participants were observed getting frustrated as they struggled with the challenge, but team building and leadership took over to accomplish their goal.  When the challenge was over, teams then cooked their own hot dogs above their fire for lunch.


After lunch, David and Les each took two teams into the bush for a walk and talk about native plants and their uses.  Also in the bush, each team then learned how to build shelter.

David and Les provided their teams with instructions on what to use and how to use items from the land to build a sturdy, weather and animal proof shelter.


Each team was then challenged with a timed shelter building exercise.  The teams came together, worked tirelessly in the beaming hot sun to create the best shelter they could.  This shelter was then judged by both David and Les for its integrity.


In the late afternoon after a brief rest, students were challenged again, but this time with skills they had already learned.  The challenge was compass based, created by the joint efforts of Les Stroud, David Arama, Sgt. James Lawson, PC Michael Seaban and PC Michelle Tasse.


Each team received a set of instructions unique to their team.  With these instructions each team set off into the bush to find 4 different locations.  The teams used compass bearings and tally walking to navigate to each location within Greenwood Conservation Area.  Once at each location, they discovered a bag labeled for their team.  Inside were 4 items of survival.  Teams discussed and retained the best survival item of their choosing.  This was repeated 4 times with an item to retrieve at each location.  Returning to command post, each team was provided the opportunity to explain their choices to David, Les and to the larger group.   After deliberations the team choosing the best survival items won.


Team points were added over the duration of the day with Team Beaver being the overall winner of the challenges for day one.  Les and David announced the big winners and as they did, students cried with excitement over their accomplishments.  Each winning team member received a Les Stroud LED baseball hat.


Tired and exhausted, the students, officers and teachers did not rest.  Instead, Vice Principal Anne Martin pulled out her trusty frisbee for game of ultimate frisbee.  No one was forced to play, but amazingly most did.  The field was packed with students playing against officers and teachers.  What a wonderful sight, to see students laughing and having a blast with people they now called friends.  It was a great way to finish off day one before heading home.


On day two the sun rose with a very different challenge.  With rain threatening and tired bodies from the day before, that didn’t prevent anyone from embracing what lay ahead.


Again from Blessed Cardinal Newman, the bus headed to McDonald’s to pick up 70 donated breakfasts and headed back to Greenwood Conservation Area.  Once there they immediately picked up from the day before throwing the frisbee and football around.


This day was a day packed full with a challenge of skills previously learned.  Completely designed by Sgt. Jim Lawson, each team received instructions for an eighteen point golf type GPS challenge. Teams needed to use their skills of compass and GPS together to stay the course.  Many faltered but team work kept them going from hole to hole.  At four of these holes teams retrieved a sealed envelope containing an unknown playing card.


Once the GPS challenge was done, teams came into command post where they each drew another card from an open deck which finished a poker hand.  With three aces and the best poker hand, Team Bear won the challenge.  For the win, team members each received a Survivorman t-shirt from Les Stroud.


During closing ceremonies Les spoke to all of the participants, thanking them for allowing him to be part of this unique initiative. He announced that he had a great time getting to know the students and teaching them what is most dear to him.  Les asked all of the students, police officers and teachers for their commitment for next year and as a huge cheer broke over the group Les declared publicly the he too will commit to year two of Project Ultimate Survivors.


And so, with the conclusion of one year another begins.  Though the program ran from March 2012 to June 2012, in its first year, there is talk about making Project US bigger and better next year.  More officers, teachers and students have come forward and expressed the desire to participate, wanting to be a part of this initiative next year. With “Survivorman” himself committed to Project Ultimate Survivors for round two next year, He left saying, “I believe a bigger, better year two is ahead.”

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Special thanks to our sponsors for helping to fund Project Ultimate Survivors in its first year.  Project Ultimate Survivors was funded by Pro Action Cops and Kids and Canadian Tire Jump Start.  Through these organizations and additional sponsors Project US was able to provide this opportunity to all youth participants at no cost to them.

 

About ProAction Cops & Kids:

ProAction is a charity that funds projects and activities, initiated and run by police officers, which engage youth at risk.  Our goal is to build trust and mutual respect between cops and youths, helping kids at risk before they become kids in trouble.

 

About Canadian Tire Jumpstart:

CanadianTire Jumpstart is dedicated to removing barriers, so children can participate in organized sport and recreation.  Canadian Tire Jumpstart sees it as equipping kids for life, because participation in organized sport and recreation increases a child’s chance for success in life.

 

Additional support was provided by Wal-mart, Costco, Sail Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Canadian Tire, Jastex, McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s

 

Project Ultimate Survivors Coordinators would like to thank the following officers for their involvement;

Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, Superintendent Donald Campbell, Inspector James MacKrell,

S/Sgt Grinton, Sgt. John Murphy, Sgt. James Lawson, Sgt. Philip Glavin, Det. Lee Poczak,

Det. Mathew Routh, PC Vince Langdon, PC Daniel LeClerc, PC Jason Ramsey,

PC Roger Mayers, PC Jennifer Wilson, PC Lynn Hanna, PC Aaron Dixon, PC Mathew Glen,

PC Michael Bulford, PC Justin Storey, PC Andrew Campbell,  PC Jeff Graham,

PC Michael Harris, PC Jeff McNevin, PC Niruben Ganeshalingham, PC Michael Rogers,

PC Alison Traynor, PC Jennifer Nantais and Errol DeAbreu.