All the right moves
In a time of recession, now more than ever the gap between poverty and big money can be seen. When looking at sports it is sometimes unfathomable to see how much some athletes are making.
There is sometimes the idea that highly paid athletes do nothing but spend their millions frivolously. We hear of hockey stars rubbing shoulders with gangsters, football stars getting shot at clubs and baseball stars shooting up with God knows what in order to boost their performance.
Athletes are not only heroes to children of all ages but to adults as well. That is why it is so refreshing to see certain athletes and programs that are doing their best to do some good in the world, athletes that live up to the expectation of not only being good at their sport but being good as a person.
There are programs that athletes devote much of their time to such as Right To Play or examples of athletes doing good such as the NHL alumni who recently spent some time in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
Right To Play is a program in which “trained Right To Play coaches use sport and play as a vehicle for children, teenagers and adults to talk openly about health issues and the importance of education,” said Simon Ibell, athlete relations and communications, Canada for Right To Play.
“Right To Play can bring together groups that have traditionally been in conflict, promoting respect and tolerance where there used to be misunderstanding and violence. For 600,000 children every week, Right To Play is providing hope for a brighter future while building a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play.”
He said the program is focused around four main areas: basic education and child development, health promotion and disease awareness, conflict resolution and peace education and finally community development.
“Right To Play’s sport and play programs target the most marginalized children including girls, refugees, the disabled, former child soldiers and young people at risk or orphaned by HIV/AIDS,” he said.
“Without Right To Play, these children would not have the same opportunities to evolve, change, gain confidence, and experience a sense of security and belonging.”
NHL stars like Zdeno Chara and Robyn Regehr have devoted their time to promoting Right To Play in countries like Mozambique. Olympic athletes such as swimmer Mike Brown and kayaker Adam van Koeverden are also athlete ambassadors for Right To Play.
To view a photo gallery from a past Right To Play event click here.
“It is amazing to be supported by these top athletes who believe in Right To Play and continually lend their time to support Right To Play awareness and fundraising events, initiatives, and projects,” said Ibell.
“It shows you how much these athletes understand and appreciate the incredible difference Right To Play’s sport and play programs are making in children’s lives worldwide.”
He added that the athletes help raise awareness that sport can be used as a tool for development.
It’s not only children that athletes are devoting their time to. From Feb. 28 to Mar. 8 Calgary Flames alumni Perry Berezan, Lanny McDonald, and Colin Patterson along with other NHL alumni and the band Glass Tiger joined General Walter Natynchuk, Chief of The Defence Staff in travelling to Kandahar to play ball hockey and interact with the Canadian military.
Berezan said he has never felt such fulfillment or satisfaction after coming back from Kandahar because of the response from the soldiers they interacted with.
During breakfast on their last day in Camp Mirage an officer stopped Berezan and said they (the alumni) had no idea of the impact they have made and that the soldiers would be thinking back to that experience for the next 8-10 months.
“Then you know you’ve done something pretty amazing,” he said.
Three Canadian soldiers were killed in combat while Berezan and the other alumni were in Kandahar. Berezan said those deaths caused the alumni to reach another level of support, “trying to be there for the soldiers at that time.”
This was the third trip for the NHL alumni and the first for Berezan who had absolutely no hesitation in saying he would go back again.
“The only issue would be, would my family allow me to go,” he said, noting that Kandahar province is “one of the hottest spots in the world” as far as risk.