It will be the trip of a lifetime for Elmira’s Megan Hume and Conestogo’s Caela McLennan, who’ll be among 20 athletes from the region are travelling to Hungary this summer to participate in the International Children’s Games in Kecskemet as members of Team Canada.
The group are basketball players on the U15 KW Vipers, with both the boys and girls teams attending. Six swimmers from the ROW Swim Club will also be making the trip.
“I was very, very excited not only to have this opportunity but to have this opportunity with my teammates and some of my closest friends,” said McLennan.
“Most of us have been playing together for our whole basketball careers so we have a lot of chemistry on and off the court. So even though we’ve only played seven games this year you can basically see the chemistry already.”
There will be somewhere around 1,500 participants from around the world competing from June 30 to July 5. This is the 54th year of the games which first began in Slovenia in 1968 and was established to bring children together to encourage peace through sport. The Games accepts participants from ages 12 to 15.
Girls’ basketball reps include Hume, McLennan, Molly Fast (Waterloo), Dacia Chin (Waterloo), Monika Milicevic (Kitchener), Tash Farquharson (Kitchener), Brooke Whitby (Cambridge), Sarah Bateman (Waterloo). Coach Craig McLennan (Conestogo) and Coach Ryan Hume (Elmira) will also be making the trip.
KW Vipers on the boys team going include Maxim Miloje, Grady Walsh, Liam Mercer, JJ Izzard, Liam Nicholls, Thisath Bandaranayake, and coach Robby Smith.
“The process was to make a letter then to bring that letter to a sit-down interview. Then we got let know that we made it into the ICG, before the New Year and it was really exciting,” said Mercer, on how the team made it to the tournament.
“They asked us our basketball careers, our volunteer hours, are we comfortable with public speaking. They asked us our availability to be on the team. “
Swimmers attending include Yashvardhan Bhargava, Adelina Nguyen, Ibrahim Akgol, coach Matthew Pedersen, Payton Felder, Kaitlyn Kuiper, and Samantha Berton.
Each participant is doing their part to fundraise – Mercer said that the boys team overall had raised some $12,000 at this point, and McLennan said that she had raised at least $1,000 alone.
“I feel like it would be a great experience to get to know the culture and experience different ways of life as well as to play basketball and see how it’s connected and how we all share the same love of the sport,” said McLennan.
Players have been sending letters to corporate businesses, such as Economic Insurance, to help with the fundraising. There are also several events planned to raise money for the trip.
“I don’t think any of us have been outside of North America, I think it would be an amazing opportunity to go to Europe,” added Mercer. “It’s a competition all about peace and friendship.”
Previous efforts include a bottle drive fundraiser on February 1 to collect any empty beer, wine and liquor bottles. There was a delegation meeting at St. Louis Bar & Grill in Kitchener, where the restaurant donated 10 per cent of the sales to the cause.
The group will look at plenty of other fundraising opportunities before they depart for Hungary in June. Anyone wishing to donate can contact Kim Chapman at email@example.com, Paula Raymond at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sarah Hume at email@example.com.