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Calgary, ALBERTA – Hockey players participating in the Canadian Tire Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, or WickFest, had the opportunity to learn about the importance of good nutrition for themselves, and for girls around the world. The annual hockey tournament, founded by Canadian Olympic gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser in 2010, showcases girls’ and women’s hockey players from Canada and abroad.

Nutrition International and CanWaCH partnered with the Calgary festival to introduce a new element, the Emerging Leaders workshop, highlighting the connection between good nutrition and success in sports. Participants, chosen by their coaches for their exemplary leadership skills, learned that millions of girls around the world are held back from sports because of poor health and nutrition. Ms. Wickenheiser, Canada’s Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan, and Nutrition International President and CEO Joel Spicer opened the session, encouraging the girls in attendance to do good for their communities and for girls across the globe.

“One thing about Canadians is that we care about the world around us and the world that we’re in,” said Mr. Spicer. “The fact of the matter is that malnutrition is holding one out of three girls back. They’re never able to get in the game because they don’t have access to good nutrition in their life. And I think that’s something that we can fix. What’s exciting for me is to draw that connection between girls in Canada and girls all around the world.”

Bringing these ideas to life, the workshop heard from three young women from the Calgary area who are working to make a difference in the lives of girls everywhere. Nicola Paviglianiti, a world champion power lifter, Dilpreet K. Samra, a University of Calgary student currently volunteering as a meal preparation coordinator for a local organization, and Anayat Sidhu, a community leader chosen to represent Canada as part of the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network’s Youth Leaders for Nutrition program, each shared their stories of leadership, and how they are working to ensure girls locally and globally have the good nutrition they need to thrive.

Concluding the Emerging Leaders workshop, the girls shared their own experiences. Participants formed small working groups, where they discussed what it’s like to play a sport that is considered male-dominated, and how nutrition helps them in school, life and on the hockey rink. The end result of these conversations was a list of action points on how to get more girls in the game, locally, nationally and internationally. These included doing a class presentation to showcase girls who do “non-traditional” girls’ sports, starting a breakfast club at school, and creating a social media account to bring awareness to nutrition issues. Experienced facilitators, including Minister Duncan and Natalie Spooner, a former member of Canada’s national women’s ice hockey team, supported each group’s discussions.

Following the workshop, a reporting panel addressed the power of sport, and discussed its role as a catalyst for health, nutrition and gender equality. Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, a gender equality advocate, and Kim Davis, executive vice president for the NHL, joined Ms. Wickenheiser, Mr. Spicer and Ms. Sidhu, to discuss issues that arose in the previous workshop and how health and good nutrition can combine with education and sports to help girls grow to be educated, empowered women.

“It’s all of us that can make a difference,” said Ms. Sidhu. “It’s really important to make sure that we’re not talking only about ourselves, but we’re talking about ourselves as a community, as a country, as a world. There are so many conversations to be had and oftentimes it’s the difficult conversations that matter most. I hope that you can take away an inspiration to plant a seed to do something that makes a difference, whether big or small. For many of you today, this isn’t the end of a journey. Hopefully it’s the beginning.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended the opening ceremony of WickFest, telling the girls that they were leaders of today and commending them for their dedication, confidence and strength. The ceremony also introduced the audience to the With Good Nutrition She’ll Grow Into It campaign with a video, highlighting the link between good nutrition and getting girls in the game.