Recreation Manitoba is proud to offer a variety of keynote speakers, workshops and presenters at the Connect Conference. Each keynote and workshop is specifically chosen to meet the needs of the sector and to our delegates. With a wide selection of topics, styles and learning opportunities, there is something for everyone! Learn more about each speaker and workshop below. 

Connect 2024 Keynote Speakers

Dr. Jackie Oncescu

Play For All

Opening Keynote: March 13, 2024

Getting serious about play for all requires creating an environment where possibility and hope coexist. This means critically reflecting on our values, beliefs and assumptions and surrendering old ways of doing, thinking and being. Through passionate and provocative storytelling, Jackie’s keynote will illuminate opportunities for shifting our thinking about play and the mindsets and small steps we can all take to cultivate new pathways to co-create more equitable, dignified and connected playful opportunities.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Jackie Oncescu is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology at UNB. She is a passionate social justice researcher and advocates blending theory with creative community development approaches to help community practice redesign and reimagine sport and recreation provisions that embrace equity-owed low-income communities. Jackie's projects encompass many topics, but her primary dedication lies in uncovering and addressing exclusionary mechanisms within community sport and recreation delivery systems. Her approach involves leveraging principles of social justice, community participatory action research methodologies and human-centred design approaches to envision and support dignified access and belonging in community sport and recreation.

Debra DiGiovanni

Play At All Ages

Closing Keynote: March 15, 2024

Debra DiGiovanni is a stand up comedian who has spent most of her life trying to find the work/life balance! Through jokes and stories, she will relay the importance of play at all ages and how it relates to self-care and wellness.


Speaker Bio: Debra is a standup, writer and performer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Toronto, Debra’s well known for her extensive portfolio of work including CBC’s Debaters, Match Game, (the wildly popular) Video on Trial and most recently, Amazon Canada’s LOL: Last One Laughing. Debra tours the live at venues and festivals around the world like Austin’s Moontower Fest, Denver’s High Plains Fest, JFL Sydney and The Glasgow Festival. As well as performing in the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal over a dozen times. Her second comedy album Lady Jazz was nominated for a Juno award, and it was in Vulture’s Top Comedy Albums of the Year. She’s performed comedy on CONAN, on Comedy Central’s Stand Up Featuring, and a special with Unprotected Sets for Epix. A favorite in the Los Angeles comedy scene, Debra continues to tour clubs and venues and hone her comedy skills”

Session Descriptions

Click the drop down options below to read about each session offered during the Connect 2024 Conference.

*Subject to change*

Presenter: Jeff Sitarz; Prarie HVAC/R

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Join Prarie HVAC/R as they share practical ways to enhance your ice plant operations through preventative maintenance, while reaching optimal equipment reliability and longevitiy. Discuss the importance of dehumidification and heat recovery for optimal energy consumption, cutting edge critical charge ice plant design, refrigerant options, and cost efficiencies that can be realized by marrying ice plant and facility HVAC controls. During this session we will also discuss safety issues ice plant operators face and share ways that they can protect thems as they oversee mechanical equipment.

Presenter: Olivia Boyce

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Food security in cities goes beyond mere access to food; it is a fundamental component of our mental and physical health and overall well-being. As we aim to build food-friendly communities, food security becomes a cornerstone for shaping an integrated urban fabric that fosters inclusivity and sustainability. In this presentation, we will delve into innovative strategies embraced by cities worldwide to enhance food security and cultivate food-friendly environments. From the implementation of Universal Basic Income in Stockton, California, offering financial support to low-income residents, to the introduction of mobile markets in Baltimore, addressing food deserts and improving access to fresh produce, and the promotion of rooftop farming in Singapore, transforming urban spaces into sustainable food hubs, these examples demonstrate inspiring approaches. Join us as we explore these and other initiatives to understand how cities can preserve cultural diversity, promote equitable food access, and integrate Indigenous food knowledge, fostering resilient and inclusive communities with thriving ecosystems.

Presenter: Maria Antaya

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Meetings are at the heart of everything we do in business—they are an essential component of any work environment. They can be a productive tool for stimulating ideas, generating plans of action, generating a sense of team spirit and resolving issues. Yet, so often meetings don't do any of these things! Unfortunately, because meetings often fail to achieve their goals, they become a frustrating waste of time, energy and money. In fact, it has been said that effective meeting management is one of the most under-developed management skills in North America... at a huge cost. Fortunately, there are methods that can undo the meeting mismanagement. In this interactive session, you will have the opportunity to develop effective meeting leadership skills.

Presenter: Tourism Industry Association of Manitoba

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

Hosting events are rebounding after a few years of being restricted. Community Festivals, tournaments and meetings are a great way to bring people together and tourists to your region. Along with it come many economic and social benefits. Join us as we explore how you can implement some tips and tricks to your events to increase participation and its success

Presenter: Dr. Dan Henhawk l University of Manitoba

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

Recreation services are at the forefront of ensuring inclusivity through policy and programs. Yet, there are still many challenges in terms of attracting and providing access to those who live in the margins. Reframing popular notions of inclusion to include current ideas of belonging may challenge Recreation services to reflect inwardly about the policies, structures, programs and spaces that may actually be exclusionary. This session will offer some insights and point out challenges about inclusion and belonging from an Indigenous perspective that may have important implications for recreation and leisure services.

Presenter:

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

Session Description Coming Soon...

Presenter: Dr. Jackie Oncescu

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 2:30-3:30 pm

Belonging requires more than having the “doors” of sports and recreation opportunities opened (i.e. access). Belonging also entails being respected and having the opportunity to participate in the co-creation of sport and recreation in the community. Join us in this session as we delve into the subtle and un/intentional ways “othering” and exclusion are designed into sport and recreation provisions for equity-owed communities experiencing poverty and to gather insights into co-creating more equitable and dignified provisions that nurture a sense of belonging.

Presenter: City of Winnipeg

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 2:30-3:30 pm

Join the staff of St. James Assiniboia Centennial as they lead you through a walking tour of their newly renovated and expanded facility. The tour will primarily focus on the aquatic facility renovation, with conversation around the design, construction and programming of the new space.

Presenter: Nicholas Simoes

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 l 2:30-3:30 pm

Life has its moments! Learn how to identify the stressors in your life, distinguish between healthy and unhealthy stress, how prolonged stress can affect your physical and mental well-being, and techniques to deal with it.

Presenter: Association of Manitoba Municipalities

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

Recreation is an essential component to every community and municipality, and one way to increase its reach is with a supportive council. This panel discussion will highlight how some communities have leveraged their participation of their council to advocate for more resources and support.

Presenter: Dr. Christopher Love; Lifesaving Society of Manitoba

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

Interested in becoming involved in National Drowning Prevention Week but not sure where and how to start? Have an idea, but not sure it is appropriate? Come to this workshop where we will provide an overview of the daily themes for National Drowning Prevention Week 2024 and then walk participants through how to prepare an event for their own facility or community.

Presenter: Scott Gessler

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

A discussion about ice plants using natural refrigerants, the benefits and options to improve operation and efficiency. New products in the industry to help reduce carbon footprint and facility maintenance costs.

Presenter: Kris Garner

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

In our session, we will explore the profound connection between emotional literacy, physical activity, community development, and the revitalizing influence of outdoor spaces. By delving into the components of emotional literacy, encompassing emotional anatomy, awareness, regulation, and expression, we gain valuable insights into our biological needs for thriving. With this comprehensive understanding, we're empowered to develop programming that is not only targeted but also incredibly beneficial. We harness the transformative potential of emotional literacy to create focused, purpose-driven initiatives that enhance well-being and enrich lives.

Presenter: Kelly Thibodeau

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

Why does accessible marketing matter to your organization? So you can reach more people, create more inclusive programming and make a difference in the lives of Manitobans. Chances are you care about doing good work, creating positive change and helping people. How well does your organization's online presence reflect the changes you want to see in the world? Learn why creating accessible web and social media content will change how you market your organization's programs, help you reach more people and contribute to a more equitable digital world.

Presenter: Zack Tarantino

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 1:00-2:00 pm

The foundation of a good asset management plan is a strong inventory of equipment and assets. Collecting, structuring and leveraging that data is not a small task. This session will help break down the process into manageable components and include experiences from fellow Recreation Manitoba members.

Presenter:

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 2:30-4:00 pm

Led by a facilitator, a community of practice (COP) is a group of people who share a common goal, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. Through a facilitated discussion, connect with others, gain inspiration, share best practices and grow knowledge to advance a domain of professional practice. Delegates are to select one of the domains to participate in: Management, Programming, and Facilities

Management COP: Intent for those who hold a management position within the recreation sector. Connect with other managers as you discuss current trends, issues and solutions that pertain to managing staff, management decisions and more.

Programing COP: This discussion will encompass the ins and outs of programming challenges, successes and include opportunity to share new and innovative ideas.

Facilities COP: Share and discuss current trends, issues and successes as it relates to facility maintenance, infrastructure, and recreation spaces.

Presenter:

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 2:30-4:00 pm

Facilities COP: Share and discuss current trends, issues and successes as it relates to facility maintenance, infrastructure, and recreation spaces.

Presenter:

Thursday, March 14, 2024 l 2:30-4:00 pm

Management COP: Intent for those who hold a management position within the recreation sector. Connect with other managers as you discuss current trends, issues and solutions that pertain to managing staff, management decisions and more.

Presenter:

Friday, March 154, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

Session Description Coming Soon...

Presenter: Kirby Cote; Accessible Sport Connection Manitoba

Friday, March 15, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

Join us for an engaging presentation by Kirby Cote, a vision-impaired athlete and the Executive Director of Accessible Sport Connection Manitoba. In this session, Kirby will share insights and experiences, shedding light on the transformative power of sports and recreation in fostering accessible and inclusive spaces for everyone. Topics of discussion include:

1. Communication for All: How clear and inclusive messaging is important to reach a diverse audience.

2. Voices of Inclusion: Gain insights into meeting the needs and aspirations of individuals with disabilities, promoting genuine engagement.

3. Inclusive vs. Exclusive Programming: Uncover the distinctions between inclusive and exclusive programming and understand how this knowledge can shape your approach to creating engaging and accessible events and programs.

Kirby brings a high charisma score to this presentation, ensuring an interactive and lively discussion. The session encourages audience participation and dialogue, with ample time dedicated to Q&A, recognizing the importance of community engagement on this vital topic.Join us in championing diversity, breaking down barriers, and creating a more inclusive future in the world of sports and recreation!

Presenter: Theresa LaForest

Friday, March 154, 2024 l 9:00-10:00 am

Developed in 1979 by a professional group of designers, researchers, and engineers, the 7 Principles of Design are still widely used today. In this session, we explore how these principles apply to play environments to create a flexible, intuitive, and approachable play for people of all ages and abilities. We will discuss how careful placement of features can ensure that we go above and beyond accessibility to create spaces that are usable by the greatest amount of people to the greatest extent possible. Based on philosophies of unstructured, free play, we recommend designing spaces that are thoughtfully created to allow children to choose their own adventures and distinguish their own boundaries. Together we can allow everyone to play on a playground or splash pad!

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Friday, March 15, 2024 l 10:15-11:15 am

Project 11 is a program that educates Manitoba youth on positive coping skills and building a greater sense of self-awareness. A signature program of True North Youth Foundation, Project 11 has evolved and provides classroom-ready programming for K-12 in English and French across the province.

Presenter: Barret Miller; Fort Whyte Alive

Friday, March 15, 2024 l 10:15-11:15 am

SAs our population ages, dementia-friendly recreation is vitally important. Outdoor activities can be seen as difficult, or even dangerous, for people experiencing dementia. With a bit of training, forethought, and minor modification to standard adult recreational programming, FortWhyte Alive has found it's quite easy to provide high-quality dementia-friendly outdoor recreation programming. We would like to share our work as a model for others interested in providing outdoor recreation to this growing group of clientele in a safe and professional manner.

Presenter: Alexandra Carriere; Lifesaving Society of Manitoba

Friday, March 15, 2024 l 10:15-11:15 am

Aquatic recreation provides a wide range of activities, sports, and life skills, making it a popular choice amongst individuals of all ages. In this workshop we will discuss current burning issues the aquatic industry is facing. This network focused workshop invites aquatic professionals from across Manitoba to bring forward challenges and successes that are current in your organization. Some key topics discussed will include:

• MPASS – Manitoba Physical Activity Safety in Schools requiring Lifeguards

• Understanding and applying Manitoba regulations that affect pools, waterfronts and camps

Presenter: hockey for all centre staff

Friday, March 15, 2024 l 10:15-11:15 am

Join staff from the hockey for all centre as they lead you through a tour of their facility, where they will share the lessons learned, innovative solutions, and successes as it pertains to the operations and needs of the hockey for all facility.

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