Presented by Jumpstart / Bon départ

Autumn Hanak

Peterborough, Ontario

Autumn Hanak is a trailblazing advocate for gender equality in sports and a dedicated leader in her community. Recognizing a significant issue in her community where girls were dropping out of sports at higher rates than boys, Autumn took proactive steps to address this disparity and create positive change. Her journey is one of resilience, empowerment, and a relentless commitment to promoting inclusivity and well-being among young athletes.

Autumn’s passion for rugby and her deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of sports led her to embark on a remarkable initiative – the “Play Rugby Like a Girl” program. This program emerged from Autumn’s collaboration with her Rugby coach and mentor as they applied for a Jumpstart Grant to kickstart this impactful endeavor. “Play Rugby Like a Girl” provides girls with the opportunity to explore a new sport, develop essential skills, foster friendships, and build confidence in a supportive and inclusive environment.

What sets Autumn’s program apart is its holistic approach to sport retention issues. Collaborating with a diverse range of community partners, including coaches, dieticians, and healthcare practitioners, Autumn ensures that girls not only experience the joy of playing rugby but also receive comprehensive support for their physical and mental well-being. By eliminating barriers to access for girls facing socioeconomic challenges and underrepresented communities in sports, Autumn’s program creates equitable opportunities for all aspiring athletes.

Autumn’s advocacy extends beyond the rugby field. She is disrupting entrenched norms and challenging stereotypes by championing gender equality and equity in sports. Her courageous conversations and unwavering dedication to creating tangible avenues for girls to stay active inspire not only her peers but also the broader community. The success of “Play Rugby Like a Girl” is evident in its impact, with weekly attendance ranging from 85-120 girls, showcasing the program’s reach and effectiveness.

Although Autumn has yet to receive formal awards, her achievements and contributions have not gone unnoticed. She was invited to speak at the prestigious Toronto Summit in 2023, where Jumpstart Charities announced continued funding of $20,000 for “Play Rugby Like a Girl.” Her ability to articulate the importance of girls’ participation in sports and her exemplary leadership skills were highlighted during this event, further cementing her role as a rising leader and advocate for change.

Autumn’s story is one of resilience, determination, and empowerment. Her dedication to empowering girls through sports and leadership serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for young changemakers everywhere. As she continues her journey, Autumn’s impact will undoubtedly resonate far beyond her community, leaving a lasting legacy of inclusivity, equity, and opportunity for future generations of athletes.