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Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is giving $375,000 to aboriginal youth recreation and sports programs over the next three years, Sport Minister Ron Lemieux announced in Winnipeg on Thursday.

The initiative will help programs such as the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) and Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreational Council (MASRC) with summer programming.​

The money will go to providing transportation, sports equipment and snacks for children from more than 100 schools in Manitoba. Participants will also be given the chance to learn more about aboriginal culture.

Lemieux focused on education when he spoke to the dozens of children gathered at the Old Exhibition Athletic grounds on Thursday.

"Scoring goals, shooting hoops, making baskets, playing floor hockey, winning games — that's really not what it's all about. It's important to play hard, have fun, be respectful of each other. But really, what it's about is making better people of us all, making you leaders," Lemieux said.

Melvin Magpantay is with the Manitoba Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Council (MASRC). He is hopeful that the increased funding will help at-risk aboriginal children and youth.

"First and foremost, it's the health factor. There's a high rate of obesity that's really rising and rising as the years progress. We're trying to combat that," said Magpantay.

"The most important one, I think, is peer-to-peer relationships. When they're in with good role models, they tend not to fall into traps that youth at risk can fall into."

Magpantay said he is grateful for the money because MARSC has struggled to think of creative ways to use their limited funding. He hopes the money, which works out to $125,000 per year, will help create healthy and active lifestyles for youth in the city and those living on reserves.

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