Team Canada took their trip to Guadalajara beyond competing in the Pan American Junior Championships and presented a donation of assorted hockey equipment to local youth today to encourage them to take up and participate in the sport.
The charitable gesture was a repeat performance for the Canadians after a similar campaign in 2010. Back then, the Canadian U17 boys team competed in the Pan American Youth Championship in Hermosillo, Mexico. Led by their Head Coach Aaron Guest and Team Manager Alvin Bissett, the boys decided to take their visit beyond the pitch and the tournament, and donated spare hockey equipment including sticks, stick bags, shin guards and turf shoes to Mexican kids.
Fast forward two and a half years, and Guest and Bissett are back in Mexico, as are 6 of the players who competed in Hermosillo back then, taking part in the 2012 Pan American Junior Championships. Remembering the appreciation and enthusiasm with which their gesture was met, the decision to put together a similar campaign came easy, and the Canadian team set out to collect new and used equipment before travelling to Guadalajara.
Today's presentation once more united Canadian players with youth on a hockey field in Mexico, together with a representative of the CODE Jalisco (Jalisco State Council for Sport Development and Support for Youth), who spoke about Mexico’s tremendous gratitude for Canada’s donation and support of field hockey development in Mexico. Afterwards, the Canadian Men’s team presented Mexican youth with hockey sticks; and later, they played hockey together on the pitch.
Alvin Bissett says that the program “means a lot to me. Seeing children have the chance to develop sports, to develop their health build outside of just education and into a whole life meaning means everything to me by way of what I do at home and around the world. [This program] came from the idea of watching others give back.” Alvin also noted the impact that this program has had on the Canadian National Team: “I think they see this as one of the high points of the trip. They really enjoyed meeting the children and expanding their friendships and giving more than just the sport itself. …I hope Canada as a whole and not just me continues to do this.”
The President of the Mexican Hockey Federation, María del Carmen García Orozco, when asked about Canada`s donation in Hermosillo two years ago, said, "It helped a lot to promote the sport locally, in the state of Sonora. The donated equipment made it possible to promote hockey and introduce more children to the sport, especially kids from families with limited resources", and expressed her gratitude for this year's equipment collection. "We sincerely thank the Canadian team for their effort. It is much appreciated".
Antonio Von Ondarza, President of the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) said:
“I find the Canadian donation to be a very humanitarian and sportsmanlike of more socio-economically developed countries with better conditions than others and it is an example of our sport of hockey that we consider to be a family sport. It is the second time after a tournament, the first was in Hermosillo Mexico that Canada left a donation of hockey sticks in this case to the Mexican Hockey Federation to be distributed by them in the best way they see fit. We hope that this will serve as a stimulus for others in the future to give opportunities to others.”
FIH President Leandro Negre, who is also currently in Guadalajara for the Pan American Junior Championships and meetings with PAHF, was impressed with the Canadians' generous and caring gesture, saying "It is fantastic to see young people care and share like this. I am also very happy to see our sport bring people together, inspire and bring out the best in young people, and transcend the boundaries of culture, nationality and social status."