From tragedy springs hope and connection

With all the tragedy in the news these days, there seems to be a cycle:  the bad news comes, everyone grieves and laments and then there are poignant moments of humanity that start to pop up, and hope begins its return.  Whether it’s the story of the JetBlue flight that comforted the grandmother of an Orlando shooting victim, or the graffiti-covered Toronto laneway garage door that turned into an artistic tribute to the 49 dead, beauty and connection can counteract pain.  

The desire to come together to help in the face of tragedy is what a Toronto high-school soccer team felt after learning about a series of attempted suicides in the remote northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat this spring.

They’ve just won bronze at the provincial high-school soccer championships, but now they have a more important team goal:  to bring healing and hope to a community struggling with an acute housing and mental health crisis.  They got involved by offering what they know best:  a love and passion for soccer.

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The Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School Royals are in Attawapiskat this week to host a week-long training camp that will teach basic skills and share a love for the game with local students.  The team arrived with uniforms, nets, balls, shoes and sleeping bags on Saturday, and will begin working with the local elementary students each morning, and conducting three-hour daily training sessions with the Attawapiskat high school, Vezina Secondary School, each afternoon.

The team had created an online fundraiser seeking $25,000 to help pay for flights and equipment and the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge, a national youth physical activity program sponsored by Coca-Cola Canada, stepped in to provide a special grant of $9,700 to help the soccer team meet its fundraising goal. 

 “This trip is about soccer, of course, but it’s more than that,” says Royals coach Paulo Pereira, who has been working with the Toronto Catholic District School Board and Attawapiskat’s recreation coordinator to organize the camp. “Sport and physical activity have been a powerful and positive force in most of our students’ own lives and they want to share this passion with their peers in Attawapiskat.  We are hoping this is the start of a long-term relationship between our communities.” 

For the Toronto students—some  of whom had never traveled anywhere before—it’s already clear that regular physical activity can help teens do better in school, grow stronger, have fun playing with friends, feel happier, improve their self-confidence and learn new skills.

Their hope is that they can pass along what they already know to the grieving community:  physical activity and sport can do so much good.

To learn more about the ParticipACTION Teen Challenge visit the website.