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Sold-Out Nike N7 Sport Summit Aims to Advance Native Youth Access to Sport

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Nike N7, one of the premier initiatives throughout North America encouraging Native and aboriginal youth to be physically active, will host its first annual Nike N7 Sport Summit at The Tiger Woods Center at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30. Since its inception in 2000, the N7 Fund has generated more than $1 million to help Native and aboriginal nonprofit groups provide access to sport for young people.

“What inspired the Summit is the N7 Fund Advisory Board wanted to contribute back to the overall vision Nike N7 has related to access to sport,” says Sam McCracken, N7’s general manager and chairman of its board of directors. “They thought, if we can bring the key players together under one roof, we can take a positive step forward in addressing the challenges to access to sport.”

The sold-out conference has attracted approximately 400 grassroots youth recreation leaders, including nonprofit representatives, wellness coordinators, coaches and Native athletes going by the title of Nike N7 Ambassadors. Prominent names include Notah Begah III, a Professional Golf Association tour pro who founded the Notah Begay III Foundation. He will share the beneficial work of his Foundation, which aims to reduce incidences of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes and promote the leadership development of American Indian youth through sports, health and research programs. Other panelists sharingsuccess stories as a result of access to sport include Lorenzo Neal, retired NFL player for the San Diego Chargers and advisor to Intertribal Sports, a Temecula, California-based program that brings members of Southern California Tribes closer together through sports; Craig Robinson, the head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University; Waneek Horn-Miller, an ambassador for IndigenACTION (an initiative through the Assembly of First Nations to coordinate a national sport fitness and wellness strategy for aboriginal youth) and the co-captain of Canada’s 2000 Olympic National Water Polo Team; and Kevin Carroll, a prominent author for ESPN/Disney and an National Basketball Association athletic trainer.

Numerous sport program coordinators, coaches and tribal representatives will also attend. “These are the people rolling up their sleeves to go back into their community and leverage sport as a tool for change,” McCracken says. "We also have a dynamic emcee, Kevin Carrroll, who has made a strong commitment" to the N7 initiative, he added.

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Kicking off Day 1 of the conference,Navajo long-distance runner and hopeful 2012 Olympic marathoner Alvina Begay will lead participants on a morning 2-mile walk/run around the Nike campus. Later in the day, she will explain how access to sport played a fundamental role in inspiring her self-esteem and motivation to work hard and be successful. Her coach with the Nike Oregon Project, a program aimed at producing Olympic-caliber athletes, will join her on stage. Salazar is widely known for winning three consecutive New York City Marathons.

The conference is structured to offer General Sessions on Day 1 related to Nike N7’s goal to provide access to sport and the benefits of Native youth participation in sport. The Business Track on Day 2 will provide information about finding and applying for grants to start a successful sport team within your community. Day 3 concentrates on the Sport Track—from organizing a sport program to countering the barriers to offering sport programs in Indian Country, such as poverty, the fears of failure and the pressures of being a role model.

In addition to offering insight and resources related to Native youth involvement in sport, the conference serves up some great Native entertainment. The first evening, Crystal Shawanda, a First Nations member of the Ojibwe band, an award-winning Canadian country music artist, will perform for audiences. “Crystal is a Nike N7 board member, and she wanted to contribute what she does best. So it was a natural fit for us to give her the stage,” McCracken says. “Several of her backup band members are employees of Nike, so that will be fun,” he added, explaining that her full band could not make the trip, so a few musicians at Nike will fill in.

Kenny Dobbs, the “slam-dunk innovator,” will host a “Let’s Move! Night Out” on the second evening, showcasing his dunking skills at the Nike Basketball Arena. He will also lead interactive demos based on First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to get kids fit.

Other notable speakers at the conference include Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians; Keith Moore, director of the Bureau of Indian Education; and Tewanee Joseph, the executive director of the Four Host First Nations who will discuss the positive impact of Aboriginal participation in the planning, hosting and staging of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

“The conference is less than a week away, and anticipation is building up for the home stretch,” McCracken says.