“Live life to the fullest, because you never know what the future holds.” These are words that Thomas lives by. At 27 years old, Thomas’ heart stopped five times in a matter of hours. The fifth time, he was declared clinically dead for 15 minutes. The doctors didn’t think he would make it, but with the strength of his spirit and of his family, he survived. Thomas is now 29 years old, and has a defibrillator implanted in his chest. He thanks God every day for his life and for his beautiful family, and strives to live in the moment each and every day while looking forward to what the future holds for him and family.
Thomas Parenteau is a proud Métis man whose background is French and First Nations. He was born in a small town three hours northwest of Winnipeg called Dauphin and lived in a small Métis community called Duck Bay for the first couple years of his life until moving to Winnipeg at 2 years old. Even though Thomas moved to Winnipeg when he was young, he still has a strong connection to Duck Bay and visits every chance he gets.
Thomas grew up in the inner city until he was 21 years old, and then moved to Elmwood. As a child growing up in the inner city, Thomas participated in a lot of school based programming since his family could not afford to enroll him into other organized community sports such as hockey. During his senior years in elementary school, Thomas moved back and forth between his father’s home in Swan River and his mother’s home in Winnipeg. Moving from home to home was difficult and Thomas began to feel confused, and frustrated, but in the 8th grade at 14 years old, Thomas found his true calling. Thomas was introduced to boxing at the Orioles Community Club in Winnipeg. Boxing was his salvation and taught him about discipline and hard work.
When most of his friends were joining gangs in high school, boxing kept Thomas grounded and kept him away from joining gangs. Following high school, Thomas continued boxing and coaching at Clifton Community Club until he was 24 years old, at which time he took a break to dedicate his time to his family.
Thomas has three children who are all very active in sports. Thomas strongly believes that sports and physical activity are the best way to keep Aboriginal youth off the streets, off the couches and out of gangs because that is what it did for him. Sport and physical activity positively affected his life and Thomas wants to share what he has learned with other Aboriginal youth.
Thomas currently works with the Winnipeg Métis Association as the Road to Gold Coordinator. As a role model in his community and the Road to Gold Coordinator, Thomas’ focus is on providing sport and physical activity opportunities for Métis youth in Winnipeg. As part of his role at the Winnipeg Métis Association, he sets up clinics for youth, finds the money to pay for registration fees; and finds instructors and the support to offer a wide range of sports and other activities for youth. Thomas` overall goal is to provide accessible, active and fun programs for youth in a safe environment, while lessening the financial barriers to participation.
In addition to his interests in sports, Thomas is quite musically inclined. As a junior in high school, he used to jig and now he plays the guitar, drums and sings in a band called "The Short Bus" who often plays at the Métis Club in Winnipeg. Thomas’ role model growing up was Wayne Gretzky – he made Thomas want to play hockey every day of his life and inspired him to try his best at everything he put his mind to. Thomas hopes to inspire and motivate Aboriginal youth through the GEN7 program and be a role model to other youth as Wayne Gretzky was to him. Thomas looks forward to helping Aboriginal youth in Manitoba set goals and achieve their dreams.