Play Makers: Rapping for Literacy


Jonathan Torrens may be best known by Canadians for his character “J-Roc”, the foul-mouthed trailer park rapping mama’s boy he portrays on the popular television series, Trailer Park Boys.

On Saturday, June 7, Torrens will be in Whitehorse busting his rhymes. This time, however, as Poet Laureate for the annual Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) Golf Tournament for Literacy.

The PGI tourney is the fundraising bread and butter for Yukon Learn.

Last year alone, the tournament generated more than $25,000 dollars for literacy-associated programming in the territory.

That is thanks to the 144 golfers and numerous sponsors that signed on to participate.

“Last year our roster of golfers was completely full and typically that is the case year after year,” explains Tina Freake, the coordinator for this year’s Yukon PGI. “People are eager to get involved because it’s a really fun tournament and it goes to a really good cause, plus you get to meet some celebrities.”

Celebrities like NWT hip-hop musician Aaron Godsend who will share Poet Laureate duties with Torrens.

Together they will flog golfers for material throughout the day before reciting their works at the post-golf banquet.

Both Torrens and Godsend are no strangers to the Yukon.

Godsend performed at the Canada Winter Games, whereas Torrens is coming back to Whitehorse after being Poet Laureate just last year.

“He really fell in love with the Yukon and its down-to-earth feel and how personal a place it is,” said Freake, when explaining why Torrens is returning to Whitehorse so soon. “And he enjoys being part of such a worthy cause that does so much for so many Canadians.”

It is estimated that 22 per cent of Canadians have difficulty with math, reading and writing.

In the Yukon alone there are more than 150 members at Yukon Learn.

It is for that reason that the annual PGI tournament is so vital.

“Without this event, Yukon Learn wouldn’t be having the success it is today and the current programming wouldn’t be there,” explains Freake. “We’ve definitely noticed a steady increase being made, whether it is one-on-one tutoring or enhanced programming.”

And the Yukon PGI is just one of the many success stories across the country.

Launched by Peter Gzowski in 1986, the PGIs are now held in 13 provinces and territories and are the most successful literacy fundraising events in Canada, generating more than $10 million over the last 20 years.

Plans for the funds generated in the Yukon from the tournament is to create four bursaries valued at a total of $4,000 and make them available to four Yukon Learn members pursuing post-secondary education.

The remaining funds will be allocated throughout communities across the territory to support literacy programming.

“I know he’d be proud of the success and the fact his legacy lives on,” explains Freake, when asked how the late Peter Gzowski, still one of Canada’s most recognized writers, broadcasters and reporters, would feel about the ongoing success of the PGI.

If you want to tee up or sponsor the PGI, please contact Yukon Learn at 668-6280.

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