Tornado Won’t Keep Kids Off The Sports Field

By Ben Hamill - November 16 2018
Tornado Won’t Keep Kids Off The Sports Field

Chairman of Own the Podium Todd Nicholson is no stranger to having his life turned upside down by a natural disaster. The Paralympic athlete’s home in Dunrobin, a town in west Ottawa, was destroyed by a formidable tornado that tore through the region on September 21.

Since then, the small and close-knit community has been caught up in a whirlwind of insurance claims, demolitions and relocation – but that hasn’t dampened Nicholson’s drive to make a difference. The chairman is now turning to sport once more in a bid to help the younger members of his community recover from the ordeal.

Nicholson’s organization recently co-hosted a successful community sports day in Dunrobin along with the Ottawa Senators Foundation and charity group Their Opportunity. The day was intended to provide families with a welcome distraction from dealing with the trauma of the tornado and the destruction it brought to them.

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Help for Low-Income Families

Another associated campaign, Rebuilding Communities Through Sport, also aims to give local parents an opportunity to get their kids involved in sports and team building exercises once more. As Nicholson said, kids are extremely resilient, but the stress was certainly starting to build on their parents at the time.

Amid the chaos, many parents missed their chances to enroll their children in sports leagues, according to Nicholson. Others still have lost their sports equipment in the natural disaster after their homes were destroyed or damaged, making it difficult for them to send their kids off to their beloved teams once more.

To provide much-needed aid, almost 30 organizations are now offering low-cost or totally free registration and equipment for kids in Dunrobin whose homes and families were affected by the September storms. The current list includes baseball, hockey and rugby leagues, not to mention martial arts studios and canoeing clubs as well.

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Sport Heals a Broken Community

The move comes as a way to reduce the barriers that families are now facing as they are trying to restore normality in their lives, according to CEO and president of Their Opportunity Randy Gill. His organization helps low-income families to get their kids involved in sports in a cost-friendly way by aiming to get them back on the ice and the field as soon as they can.

Aside from developing a valuable sense of community, Nicholson (a former sledge hockey star) has noted that the act of playing can relieve plenty of stress and anxiety that many locals are suffering from. In his mind, his time on the ice always brings him an irreplaceable sense of peace, and he is confident in sport’s ability to change so many things for the better.

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