By Darren Lum
Take a unique opportunity to give back to the community by showing the best of the Highlands as a billet family for a Haliburton County Huskies player, said volunteer billet coordinator Jess Jackson.
“I think it’s a great way for the community to get involved. I think there is certainly a great opportunity for families with young children to benefit by having that role model outside their immediate family unit and I think it’s a really great way to connect the team with the community itself given that all the players are not going to be local players,” she said. “It kind of provides that additional diversity that maybe we’re not accustomed to having in our community because we’ve never really had this experience in the past with respect to asking community members to billet someone for this particular reason.”
Jackson said a billet family needs to provide a healthy environment and is non-smoking for players between 16 and 20 years old. Prospective applicants will undergo a screening process, which includes all adults 19 and older in the household completing a vulnerable sector criminal record check. The family not only provides day-to-day living arrangements, but ensures access to laundry facilities, provides an unshared room with a dresser and closet space, a double-bed or larger per player, study area (desk preferred), meals, unlimited WiFi for online courses, but also “instill values and team rules along the way.” Players, who should be treated like a member of the family, are expected to be role-models for children of the household. All transportation is handled by the player or arranged through the team. A parking space for a vehicle is preferred, but not mandatory.
Players will require accommodations starting mid-August to coincide with the team’s training camp and last for eight months.
According to the team’s website, billet families are eligible for a “billet package,” including billet compensation money, two season tickets for regular season and playoff games. For more information and to apply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born and raised in the Highlands, Jackson loves this community and said a billet family provides a doorway to learning about the area through immersion.
From the billet experience, there will be a community immersion with the family, who will enable a rich experience for the players they accommodate. This could occur through someone’s work or even their hobby.
“I truly think just by being immersed in the family unit outside from what is different from their own is an opportunity for any person to learn and to expand their skill set, their knowledge base, their culture,” she said.
She adds the typical seasonal harvesting of maple syrup would be just one example of a learning opportunity unique to this rural area.
It will not only leave a lasting impression on the player, but the families they come from outside the Highlands.
“From the families of the players, they will be excited to know that there is the option or the opportunity to have add such a fulsome lifestyle for their children, or something that is different than they’re used to,” she said.
The 2003 Haliburton Highlands Secondary School graduate went away for post-secondary education and the absence provided perspective about the quality of the close-knit culture that exists here.
“I have such an appreciation for the beauty of our area and I think you get such a warm feeling … I’m such a proud member because I like the fact I can walk down the street and be recognized and say hello to somebody,” she said. “The small-town vibe. There’s really something to be said for that and I think in terms of a lot of the families in [the] community [that] are born and raised, or they’re multi-generational and so I think the fact it’s not uncommon for youth in our community to have those close relationships with not only their parents, but their grandparents, their aunts and uncles. Not every family has the benefit. I know I certainly did and have all my life. I’ve been able to learn so much from … maybe it’s not my grandparents, but it’s friends’ grandparents or co-workers parents. There’s that connectivity between so many different generations. There’s so much knowledge and history within the community.”