Washington D.C. is a far cry from Winnipeg's North End, but 10 young adults from Winnipeg's inner city will fly there next month for a tour arranged by Ginny Devine, the wife of Canada's ambassador to the United States.
They are youth leaders at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre who helped host Ambassador Gary Doer, the former Manitoba premier, and his wife on a visit this summer to the centre on the Old Exhibition Grounds on Dufferin Avenue.
That initial visit led to the invitation to Washington.
Devine set the itinerary for the four-day tour, Oct. 17-20, which will include visits to the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and the Canadian Embassy.
"A lot of kids go on trips to Europe and they fundraise for them," Devine said. "We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for these kids to visit Washington."
The final night, Doer has something special planned, Devine said. The ambassador and his family are hosting a barbecue for the kids, along with a tour of the private residence at the embassy.
Devine said she and Kevin Chief, Manitoba's minister of children and youth opportunities, worked together to line up the trip. Chief served as executive director of the centre until he won the Point Douglas seat in the last election and was appointed to Premier Greg Selinger's cabinet.
Sterling Muskego, 21, is one of the 10 people making the trip. A WASAC youth leader, nicknamed "Little Chief" for his gentle manner and booming voice, Muskego described the trip is "once-in-a-lifetime."
Muskego said he's struck by the fundraising support the trip is getting, and admits he's a little star-struck by Doer and Devine.
"It was awesome meeting Gary and Ginny. And that barbecue, that's going to be interesting. Not many people get that opportunity. It's going to be cool."
Muskego said he'll post photos on Facebook while he's away.
Chief said he's helping the group raise the $30,000 it will take to cover flights, hotel costs and meals.
"I've got to tell you, myself and Ginny have been pretty busy," Chief said Friday. He'd just come from pitching the trip to the Manitoba Federation of Labour. There are also financial pledges from the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation through Mark Chipman, the Jets chairman, and from Gerry Price, head of E.H. Price, one of Manitoba's biggest private-sector companies
"We're well on the way to get these kids off for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Manitobans have really stepped up," Chief said.
Five days before the flight, on Oct. 12, WASAC will host a fundraising Thanksgiving dinner at the centre.
"Every dollar we raise will be complemented by support from hundreds of low-income families," Chief said. "They've promised $5, and $10 each and perogies and bannock."