Giving back is an act close to my heart. Sometimes it’s taught but often times it’s learned. I was fortunate to grow up in a giving family, although I'm not sure the idea of “fundraisers” was very big back in the 70s. As I matured, I realized just how blessed I was and knew I needed to return the favor. It's a value I hope to pass along to my children. While I'm not always able to give time and/or money, when I can, it is so rewarding. I don't attend church regularly, but I am spiritual and I fully believe in karma. And I had way too much good in my life not to give back with all my heart.
Over the next 18 years, I’ve stayed a part of the organization as it’s changed and grown. We became Right To Play, and we now have a presence in 23 countries, touching the lives of over 1 million children every week. The idea of using sport for development has became a powerful tool, largely in part due to the tremendous work of Johann. He’s won gold medals, broken world records, and met world leader, but those accolades pale in comparison to his efforts to bringing a smile to a child in a war-torn country and watching that child learn and grow with confidence through sport in our programs.
The relay race began with Johann and I looking on as cheering fans. The little girl was standing there in line waiting for her turn to race. She was focused and ready. The baton was passed to her, and I don't think I have ever seen a child happier than in that moment. She was hauling butt to the turn-around post and back. And I was just in awe. While not yet a mother, I understood what it meant to feel a child’s joy and want to be a part of giving them that feeling. Her face, that smile, and those eyes have stuck with me. It’s the joy of the heart I now see in my own children.
Pure happiness was what I witnessed that day, something those kids hadn't felt often. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don't feel honored to be a part of Right To Play, building a foundation of health, confidence, courage and knowledge through sport so that children can go on to be a positive influence in their communities. Yes, I have given time, energy and money, but what I continue to take away from each experience is so much more. And the lessons I get to teach my kids first hand are priceless.
Everyone has their own passion, their own calling, so find yours if you can. Choose your path and give back however you can to something that’s close to your heart in whatever way you’re comfortable participating. If you get the opportunity, teach the next generation the power they have for positive change. And please tell me all about it. I truly want to know.