For Jordin Tootoo, service to the community isn't an obligation – it's a personal mission.
For his efforts in applying the core values of hockey to enrich the lives of people in his community, the New Jersey Devils are proud to nominate right wing Jordin Tootoo for the 2015-16 NHL Foundation Player Award.
Since the 2002 suicide of his older brother Terence, Tootoo has been committed to assisting charities that address suicide awareness and prevention, and youth at risk through Team Tootoo.
"We started the whole project after my brother passed away and we wanted to raise awareness for suicide prevention and youth at risk,” Tootoo said. "With suicide, you’ll never know the answers. We educate youth about it and give them the opportunity to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Started in 2011, The Team Tootoo Fund has given grants to The Jason Foundation, which is dedicated to providing education of students, educators and parents on awareness and prevention of youth suicide; STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand), which is committed to preventing, intervening and treating bullying, substance abuse and violence; OasisCenter, which works with at-risk youth; and The Sports Fund of the Community Foundation of Tennessee, which supports nonprofits involved in coaching and tutoring kids, and supporting youth in sports.
"We really took it to the next level right in 2011,” Tootoo said. "I thought it was just the right time to help the cause. Having dealt with mental illness and suicide, I thought I’d be the perfect example."
Tootoo draws inspiration from his roots. The first and, currently, only Inuk player in the NHL, he grew up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, almost 1,000 miles north of Winnipeg. Youth suicide continues to impact the Inuit community, something Tootoo has worked to change.
"Growing up in the North in a lot of these isolated communities, I give people a better thought process as to how life is,” he said. "Everyone deals with their own problems in certain ways, but I think if you’re comfortable in your own skin, people open up. This is a big thing that’s been happening in the North. It’s an epidemic. If I can help one person, that’s great."
Tootoo returns to Rankin Inlet every offseason to share his story with others. Now in his fifth year of sobriety, he actively mentors Nunavut youth. During the summer, he commits to outreach to combat domestic violence on local as well as national scales.
“After I really looked after myself, I wanted to make sure that I was going to have time to be involved more,” Tootoo said. "I thought it was my calling to raise awareness about it.
"At the end of the day, it’s about picking people up and making them realize that they’re brought into this world for a reason. Life’s too short – you want to enjoy every day."
Jordin Tootoo on Twitter: @Jtootoo22
More on Team Tootoo
Checks are payable to Vancouver Foundation, with "Team Tootoo" on the RE: line.
Team Tootoo Contact: Mike Watson; 604-551-9252; firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations/information to the Vancouver Foundation and the Team Tootoo fund:
Jordin Tootoo's #Relentless Story
Devils Insider - Jordin Tootoo Part One
Devils Insider - Jordin Tootoo Part Two
Tootoo's Rough Path to Stardom (MSG Networks)
Jordin Tootoo holds hockey fundraiser in Rankin Inlet (CBC.ca)
Devils' Winger Jordin Tootoo "in" with the Prime Minister (NJ.com)
Devils' Jordin Tootoo goes "All the Way" in sharing his life story to help himself and others heal (The Record)
Devils' Jordin Tootoo Recalls Christmas In Nunavut (NJ.com)
Jordin Tootoo's Latest Stop on a Long, Hard Journey (New York Times)
Jordin Tootoo is in Yellowknife This Weekend for Charity Event (My Yellowknife Now)
Jordin Tootoo didn't want to that 'victim' on the streets, revived his NHL career (Edmonton Journal)
Timing is Everything for ex-Red Wing Tootoo (Detroit Free Press)
A hearttrending memoir from Jordin Tootoo (MacLean's)
Jordin Tootoo finds words to heal old wounds (Winnipeg Sun)
Video: Hometown Hockey in Brandon, Manitoba
One-on-One with CBC's Peter Mansbridge
Book: "All the Way: My Life on Ice" by Jordin Tootoo with Stephen Brunt