Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Talking with Hayley Wickenheiser

Right To Play was originally established in 2000 with a purpose to use sport and play to educate and empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities. Since its founding, and growing from its origins in Olympic Aid, elite athletes have played a major role in its activities.

This partnership with amazing athletes continues through Right To Play's Athlete Ambassadors. In Canada, six of these Athlete Ambassadors are taking the lead to help Level The Field. To learn more and vote for a chance to travel to West Africa to see Right To Play's work in action click here.

Hayley Wickenheiser is one such Athlete Ambassador. On Friday, I had the opportunity to interview Hayley about her involvement with Right To Play and the Level The Field campaign. Yup just me chatting with Hayley, probably the best female hockey player on the planet. 
CanaDad: What inspired you to become an Athlete Ambassador with Right To Play? 
Hayley Wickenheiser: I discovered Right To Play at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. What struck me was that it was such a simple concept, that you really don't need very much but can have such an impact. The power of sport and play to help children rebuild their lives and overcome challenges is amazing. As a female hockey player, I had faced my share of challenges growing up, so achievement and accomplishment through sport really resonated with me. 
Canadad: What are some of the most important, most fun and coolest things Right To Play does? 
HW: It helps that Right To Play is run by one of my Olympic idols - Johann Koss. It is a really solid organization with great administration that helps ensure every possible penny goes to helping empower kids in disadvantaged areas of the world. 
CanaDad: Can you share an experience that touched you while on field trip with Right To Play? 
HW: In 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to Rwanda with Right To Play. I got to meet one of Right To Play's local coaches, a guy named Ed*. He was a great guy in his early 20's. Working with him I got to know him and I asked about a scar on his forehead. He told me how is family had been killed during the genocide in 1994. His family had been hacked to death by machetes. Ed and his sister were both attacked at the same time, but they pretended to be dead and ended up being tossed in a pit on a pile of bodies. They pretended to be dead for a few days and eventually crawled out and managed to escape. One of the organizations that helped him rebuild his life was Right To Play. It really struck me, that even having been through such a terrible ordeal, he was such a happy person. 
CanaDad: As a parent, how much has Right To Play's philosophy impacted your parenting style? 
HW: My work with Right To Play has really taught myself and my son how fortunate we are, and how fortunate he is to be kid growing up in Canada. Sometimes we squander the amazing opportunities we have every day. I had a chance to take my son Noah to Ghana where we toured schools that had to share one wet textbook amongst all the students. The difference in our situations really touched us both. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, even right here in Canada as parts of the North and Aboriginal Communities face tremendous challenges. It is important to remember that Right To Play helps children all over the world, even right here at home. 
The next time we chat I'll have to remember to see if she's available to sub in at one of my floorball games.
And remember, visit the Right To Play Level The Field Facebook page to learn more about the programs and vote for your chance to win a trip to West Africa with Right To Play to see a program in action.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

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