THUNDER BAY — Aaron Guthrie's basketball program at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School is enjoying a good run with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the NBA's Toronto Raptors.
Two years after DFC received $50,000 from the MLSE Foundation to help promote basketball in the school and in the First Nations that it serves, Guthrie has won the foundation's Michael Bartlett Award for Community Impact.
He coaches the boy's basketball team and has taught healthy active living at DFC for a decade.
The award was established to recognize an MLSE Foundation partner who demonstrates "incredible leadership and commitment to both measurable and meaningful impact in the community."
DFC is an official partner because it is one of the organizations across the country which the foundation has supported with grants over the years.
Guthrie attributes his award to the dedication of the entire school community.
"It's my name on it but I've been saying to everybody that it's taken a big team to accomplish what the basketball program has done over the last five years. There's a lot of other coaches who have helped me out a lot. The administration that's supported us 100 per cent since the beginning, as well as the kids, the players themselves," he said in an interview Tuesday with Tbnewswatch.
Guthrie said the DFC basketball program is not set up with a goal of "just to get wins" on the court.
"It's also to build our youth up, to introduce them to what a team mentality is, and to be committed and dedicated to that team, something bigger than yourself, to persevere and have an impact on our community," he said.
The award comes with a $5,000 donation to the charitable organization of the recipient's choice.
Guthrie has decided it should go to the DFC basketball program.
"There are always needs. The kids are coming from little communities, and a lot of times they come with just a backpack or a duffel bag. That's all they packed for three or four months at school, They don't have indoor/outdoor shoes, things like that....we try to break down any potential barriers they have to participating, so they can just be kids and go out and play and have fun."
A third component of the award has Guthrie expressing just a little regret.
He'll be flown to Toronto in the fall to receive his award. There will also be tickets to a home game of any MLSE team.
"Unfortunately it's next season and not next game. I was hoping they could squeeze me into the NBA finals. I asked. You never know, it never hurts to ask."
Guthrie said people who know him will appreciate that "it's a no-brainer" that he'll choose to go to a Raptors game next season with those free tickets.
He's not sure yet how many other members of the DFC community might be able to accompany him.