Photo submitted by Thorsten Gohl.
Walk to Tuk 2021 has been one of the most inspiring and successful challenges in NWTRPA history if you ask me. It's no shocker that the year started off rough: COVID-19 continues to throw everyone for a loop. At first, we didn’t even know if it was safe to send you your “I Walked to Tuk” 2021 T-shirts!
We all miss our regular activities, our normal lives, our families and friends. We’ve all been craving connection for almost a year now. The way I see it? This year has shown us just how essential programs such as Walk to Tuk really are to our communities—how much benefit and connection we can get from being healthy and active together.
The challenge always brings out the best in NWT residents. From your stories to your photos, and of course all the captains and teammates motivating each other to get out of the house and take care of our health and wellbeing.
As we sat around the office this week (staying 2 metres apart!) drawing names for prizes and reminiscing over the Walk to Tuk 2021 challenge, one message we kept hearing was how smooth and successful this year has been. Don’t get me wrong, we know that there are kinks to iron out. (In fact, a small but particularly resilient group of you waded through website bug after bug!) But overall, the Walk to Tuk was a refreshing, inspiring and much needed change from the stress that was 2020 and continues on. This year's event brought out true northern spirit and resilience. It kept us in connection to each other and the land, reminded us of the deep-rooted values from history, culture, and social justice; and most of all it really brough out that energy northerners always bring to building safe and healthy communities!
Despite the mental, physical, and spiritual health challenges brought on living through a pandemic in the dark months of winter, 5,579 participants from 31 different NWT communities and beyond took part.
All the participants—you!—made this the most active Walk to Tuk season the NWT Recreation and Parks Association (NWTRPA) has ever seen! How amazing is that?!
The NWTRPA is a non-profit organization with a staff of 6 people that runs on funding applications, energy, and the recreation needs of the NWT population! Our programs are so far-reaching—from Elders in Motion, to training fitness boot camp leaders in your communities, to Walk to Tuk.
Some people are surprised to learn such a large challenge that represents roughly 12% of the NWT population is run by a small non-profit— not a large government department. And we do it all for you! To keep people active, to see the smiles in your photos, and hear the excitement through your stories.
There is a lot of time, energy, and thought that goes into the challenge from the whole NWTRPA staff…
Walk to Tuk actually starts very shortly after the previous one ends! We begin in May/ June talking as a staff about the next year’s priorities, based on what went well and what we could do better. For Walk to Tuk 2021, initial conversations at the NWTRPA revolved around prizes and website maintenance.
Historically, the NWT Recreation and Parks Association handed out an “I Walked to Tuk” T-shirt to every participant who completed the challenge. This made sense when there were only about 500 participants. After a decade of successful growth and inclusivity, reaching more and more NWT residents and communities each year we’re quickly approaching a participant pool of 6,000 people! This is incredible! But the administrative, financial, and environmental burden of these T-shirts has become huge. Read more about the NWTRPA & Walk to Tuk’s “T-shirt decision”.
This year we decided out with the thousands of T-shirts and in with bigger, better, and more evenly distributed prizes! And all was not lost: T-shirts are still for sale and they’re given as prizes for the many contests we run throughout the challenge to keep everyone motivated.
With a decision made on the prize front we were into the summer season… which came with many, many, many, many tests on the walktotuk.com website.
Last year, for Walk to Tuk 2020, we launched a brand-new website to increase inclusion and accessibility for all participants. Although the website was shiny and exciting and had a tonne of new features designed to connect us across teams and communities, it was to say the least: a challenge. So, over the summer, we spent months testing, tweaking, and improving the website to avoid as many of those website bugs and glitches as possible. This began mid-summer: looking at all of your feedback from the previous year on the website, reflecting on the challenges and successes, and trying to zero-in on how we could make the website experience better and easier for Walk to Tuk 2021.
As we neared the end of summertime, we tied up the loose ends and crossed our fingered hoping that there were no issues when 5,000 people log in to our website at the same time come December/January!
Luckily, this year there were very few issues with the website compared to last year! Of course, when Walk to Tuk 2021 came around, some participants (around 200 people) happened to get stuck in the ‘No primary team” loop and worked with us patiently and relentlessly to figure out fixes. Thank you for sticking around with us and helping us to improve! Fingers crossed that Walk to Tuk 2021 proves even smoother!
With fingers crossed we moved our sights over to sponsorship and communications!
September–November: Sponsorship & Communications
A huge part of our success is due to generous businesses who value recreation as much as we do! Ahead of each Walk to Tuk event, we email our partners, previous sponsors, and individuals who champion physical activity in the North. Sponsors help us in so many ways: from advertising through their own channels, to developing our posters, donating prizes, financial sponsorship, and even lending a hand to identify website issues or ideas! Developing meaningful relationships with our sponsors is crucial to the success of this event and getting the word out to you, the participants!
Our last push toward the Walk to Tuk event launch is of course communications. A huge chunk of our time in the fall and early winter is spent developing posters, mailing out media packages, writing articles, working with advertisers, and getting the word out that Walk to Tuk is coming and ensuring we’ve got enough ideas up our sleeves to keep all participants motivated to keep going through those dark winter months. This is a crucial step in launching a successful Walk to Tuk: making sure that everyone knows and has access to the benefits and opportunities that exist with this amazing made-in-the-north event!
December–March: Walk to Tuk!
As December rolls around and you start signing up with your team, our focus turns to you of course! Having such an enormous event run smoothly means getting to know you, helping you get registered, answer website questions, and make sure teams have all the information they need to enjoy a successful Walk to Tuk challenge!
When we look at where the Walk to Tuk started 11 years ago, and where it is now, the most amazing part about this event really is just how dedicated NWT residents are to staying healthy and being active as a team! This team spirit and commitment to wellbeing is what drives the Walk to Tuk event.
The T-shirts and the prizes certainly make the deal a little sweeter, but it’s the captains, the families, the company teams, the classroom exercises, and the participants getting together in safe, healthy ways during one of the most isolating, and difficult times in our recent history that makes us want to do it all over again next year.
Don’t hang up those walking boots too quickly, we will see you again soon, and there are many ways to keep walking until next time!
Director, Active Communities