|Today's date: Thursday May 23, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 20|
We Cover The County...
Hopscotch 4 Hope: Eden Mills girls attempt world record on Oct. 1
by Kelly Waterhouse
If it is true it takes a village to raise a child, then this community can be proud of three local girls whose vision to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children around the world has garnered them national attention and a potential place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
These girls are a hop, skip and a jump away from turning their goals into reality. On Oct. 1, they’re asking everyone to hop to it and get involved in “Hopscotch 4 Hope.”
Inspired by a class trip to Free the Children’s We Day in Waterloo last Spring, Kamari Brown-Gain, 13, Kory Melnick, 13, and Robin Melnick, 11, realized they had the power to effect change in their world - if they just took the first step.
“We got really inspired by the speakers and their stories about the world,” Kamari said. Her friend Kory agreed, saying, “It was motivating to hear what people have done.”
Putting their enthusiasm into action, they created Step Up 4 Change, a campaign to raise awareness and funds for disadvantaged children.
All they needed was an event, but the trio wanted to do something unique. Brainstorming ideas together, Hopscotch 4 Hope was born.
“Its different from a walk or run event,” said Robin. “It’s a new challenge to hop for 5.5 kilometres.”
Kory added, “The idea that we could break a World Record too was exciting.” The current Guinness Book of World Records notes the longest hopscotch course stands at 5.2km.
Figuring out which charities to support was the easy part, the girls say.
Free the Children was an obvious choice, but then the girls made a connection with the Right To Play student organization out of the University of Guelph, which has a similar humanitarian mandate, focusing on play and athletics, with a local and global outreach.
“We did a presentation to the Right To Play group at the university, in front of about 20 students,” explained Kamari.
She was excited by the resulting joint initiative for Hopscotch 4 Hope and all the support and experience the university group brought to the table.
“One of the really great things about this event is the mentorship involved with the university students,” said Linda Melnick, mother of Kory and Robin.
Linda credits the enthusiasm of the university students and their energy for the project as instrumental in the planning stages.
“Both groups (Right to Play and Free The Children) have given the girls a youth councillor contact and they’ve been so supportive,” said Linda.
The University of Guelph is offering a shuttle bus to and from the campus to further encourage students and the individual student residences to compete and get involved.
“Everybody is learning from everyone in this experience,” Kory said, including their friend Sarah Taylor, 13, who is the Step Up 4 Change media relations coordinator and has helped them gain the attention of Toronto media, including Breakfast Television.
The girls also credit the support of their classmates, their neighbours in Eden Mills and Rockwood Centennial School’s social justice committee, which was headed by their teacher Gillian Sigwart.
The committee was the recipient of the $2,000 Penguin Club Big Dreamers Award, a prize associated with Free The Children that celebrates children’s contributions to fundraising efforts.
“Our school got to choose who this money would be donated to and the school chose Hopscotch 4 Hope,” said Kamari. “It was a great start for us.”
The second presentation for these three young organizers was to Guelph-Eramosa council, with a request for road closures.
With permission granted, a hopscotch route winding through the village of Eden Mills and ending at the town’s park will be drawn out using 12-foot template panels with 10 hopscotch squares per board, spray painted and laid repetitively a total of 1,504 times.
The track will be split between volunteers from the Right to Play group and friends of the Step Up 4 Change girls, including members of their home community and their Rockwood Centennial School community too.
Beginning at 9 am, individual runners, walkers and hoppers will take to the course, followed at 10:30 am with relay teams that will challenge the course until the noon hour. Four pit stops will be in place along the course, at every 1.1km.
“It’s a timed event for the runners, but it’s just for fun for the rest of the people who do the course,” explains Robin. “You just do what you can and have fun.”
Registration is $35 for individual participants or $125 for a five-person relay team. Those who registered early will receive a Hopscotch 4 Hope t-shirt, grab bag, food ticket and commemorative Hopscotch 4 Hope stone.
From noon until 5 pm the hopscotch course is open to everyone to encourage families to be a part of the event, whether they can do the whole course or simply want to be part of the day. While the organizers are calling this “free time,” they are hoping people bring a toonie donation to support the causes and take part in all the events.
Guest speakers will include Bria Wilbur, outreach speaker of Free The Children, a yet-to-be named representative from Right to Play and Mayor Chris White, who will be on site to formally open the event.
To further support the Hopscotch 4 Hope fundraiser, the event is selling square spaces as a form of sponsorship. An individual square costs $2, while a ten square board is $15.
“We’ve sold just under 6,000 squares in total to date,” said Linda, who added the event has taught Kamari, Kory and Robin valuable life lessons in terms of working with peers, finding the courage to ask for sponsorships and to do public speaking.
It’s a large commitment that has paid off before the event has even begun.
“We are really surprised at how generous and supportive people have been,” said Linda.
“The event has grown and taken on a life of it’s own primarily due to the support, enthusiasm and willingness to help of those in the community in which we live and we are truly grateful for that.
“We are fortunate to live in a place where people truly do work together to make a difference and demonstrate a leadership that is both visionary and compelling to others to be a part of.”
Added Robin, “The kids in our village have been so enthusiastic and helpful, wanting to get involved painting signs or scrubbing the rocks (for the token Hopscotch 4 Hope stones) and giving us ideas for the entertainment.”
Local business have gotten behind the Hopscotch 4 Hope fundraiser with either financial support or in-kind donations, including the day’s food vendor, Taste Fine Foods of Arkell, Canada Dry Motts, Planet Bean Coffee, Marble Slab Creamery and Terri’s Artisan Cakes.
Corporate sponsors from Wellington County and beyond have also joined in supporting the merit of children helping children, either by offering funds, gifts or by entering teams in the relay race.
Chalk has been donated by Wyndham Art Supplies in Guelph. The donated posters and pamphlets were the creative design work of Next Page Publishing. Stratford’s Simplistic Lines Inc., a company specializing in athletic field marking equipment, is joining Hopscotch 4 Hope by donating two trucks of biodegradable marking paint and the accessories to finalize the template designs.
“There’s been a lot to get ready since the idea was generated back in February,” said Kory. “And now we’re [getting close to the event]. It’s exciting.”
If it’s been overwhelming, this trio doesn’t show it.
Their enthusiasm for the project has not waned. They have seen a simple idea blossom into a full-day spectacle of fun, including a silent auction, live music from three university bands, plus Brent Freeman and the Tiger Sharks, Sarah Clark and Your Neck of the Woods. The Brampton Acro Ropers and Dance Pak are also coming to perform.
There will be jugglers, face painting and plenty of activities, from chalk drawing along the course to games.
“The money raised from our event will be split evenly between two projects in Kenya,” explained Kory. “Money will go to help build an all girl’s high school in Kisaruni, Kenya and help put hydro and a well into the community where the school is built.”
The magnitude of these basics gifts, like education and water, is not lost on Kory.
“Because I am given such a great opportunity, through my education, health care, a roof over my head, it makes me realize how lucky I am, and I think every child should have that. I am very passionate about this, because I am so fortunate,” she said.
Kamari shares her friend’s sentiment.
“For me, it is partially feeling lucky, but also seeing the pictures and videos from We Day that made me feel very hopeful that what we do here can really help. I definitely believe change is possible,” Kamari said.
For Robin, following in her teammates’ footsteps, Hopscotch 4 Hope has taught her something about herself too.
“I finally did something, an accomplishment, and it feels really great,” she said.
Hopscotch 4 Hope takes place in Eden Mills on Oct. 1 from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information or to register or offer support, visit www.stepup4change.com.
September 30, 2011
The Wellington Advertiser
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