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Martha Blake, from Inuvik, N.W.T., with her six-year-old daughter Jillian. Jillian will be playing hockey for the first time this year. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) Kids across the N.W.T.’s Beaufort Delta region received free hockey equipment Tuesday, as part of a program that makes it easier for kids to play hockey across Canada.

The First Shift program, which is a partnership between Canadian Tire, Hockey Canada and Bauer Hockey, provides equipment to kids and six on-ice lessons. Ten-year-old Kalena Wainman from Inuvik, N.W.T., tries on a glove. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) Although the program has been going on for about four years, this is the first time that it’s being offered in the North.

Normally the program would cost $199 per child, but the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) has stepped in to cover the cost. Forty-five kids with their gear sit with their brand-new gear, and listen to a presentation Tuesday. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) Inuvik resident Martha Blake’s six-year-old daughter Jillian will be playing hockey for the first time this year. She’s one of the 45 kids who received the free equipment this past week.

"It’s a good opportunity. It is expensive to get all the equipment, having two children in hockey. My son just recently outgrew his so it will be a cheaper cost for me to buy his and Jill gets the free equipment," said Blake. Carla Gruben and six year-old Chloe from Paulatuk. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) The program is for five to 12 year olds, and they must have no experience in minor hockey.

Six-year-old Chloe travelled all the way from Paulatuk with her mom Carla Gruben.

"She never played ice hockey before yet. She plays hockey in the gym," said Grube.

"I’m very excited about the on-ice sessions so she learns how to play because she’s very excited to come to Gwich’in Cup with her brother." From left to right, MLA Alfred Moses and IRC Chair Duane Smith. Smith says ‘it’s all about having fun.’ (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) The IRC chair Duane Smith was present at the event as he rocked his own Canada jersey, and urged Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald to get the ice at the rink in as soon as possible.

"It’s all about having fun and getting the kids an opportunity to pursue healthy recreational life pursuits, and to share with each other and build friendships," said Smith. A group photo with all the kids, organizers and volunteers from the First Shift program and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation who made this possible. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) Any extra gear that was brought to Inuvik was donated and will be distributed to other kids in the region.

The lessons will begin as soon as there’s ice at the Midnight Sun Complex. MORE NORTH NEWS | Take a look at some of the best photos from the Sahtu assembly in Tulita

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