Friday, February 12, 2010

Calgary students experience the torch run

Today, Feb. 12, 2010, after approximately 12, 000 people carried the Olympic Torch from Ancient Olympia to Vancouver, B.C., the Olympic cauldron will be lit in Vancouver to begin the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

And of those approximately 12,000 people, Heather Wicksted, The City’s co-ordinator in Recreation for Calgary AfterSchool, joined 19 Calgary youths and shared the run as the Torch left Chestemere on its way to Calgary.

But this was more than just the experience of being a part of the Olympic Torch run for Wicksted and these kids.

In October 2008, Sogo Active, a program that partners with Alberta Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA), Coca-Cola and ParticipACTION, approached Heather Cowie from the ARPA to co-ordinate a group of 20 youth coming together to carry the torch for Calgary.

When Cowie, acting manager of business services in Recreation and Chair of the ARPA Committee for Children & Youth was approached, she decided all youth organizations across Calgary should be involved.

Bringing together YMCA Calgary, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary, Child and Youth Friendly Calgary, The City of Calgary Recreation (Village Square Leisure Centre), The City of Calgary, Community & Neighbourhood Services (West Area Office) and ARPA, each organization chose between two and four youth to participate in the Torch run.

At the time, Wicksted was a specialist at Village Square Leisure Centre. Her role was to bring together this group of kids, who don’t know each other, with very diverse backgrounds, and build a “team.”

“We had kids that are on the Mayor’s Youth Council and kids who every day they attend school is a success for that child,” said Wicksted.

From October 2008 until November 2009, each month a different organization hosted an event with the event planned and implemented by a youth from that group. This highlighted the organizations strengths which allowed youth to see what is offered across the city.

Over the year, they did everything from playing basketball and riding horses, to partaking in a gingerbread house making contest and made sandwiches for the Mustard Seed. These activities brought the kids together and created a buzz and excitement among the youth.

On the “day of,” Wicksted wanting this to be more than just the run. She wanted the day to be a really amazing experience. And with the great support from Village Square and the West Area Office, it went off without a hitch.

The day started at 10 a.m. at Village Square Leisure Centre. They fed 130 people breakfast. One of the youths family came up from the Siksika reserve and did an honour song and prayer for the team. Then all 130 people were loaded onto three buses and headed out to Chestemere.

Wicksted started the run by lighting the torch off the cauldron at the community celebration in Chestemere. All 19 youth were with Wicksted on stage and proceeded off for their one kilometre run. As they passed the torch to each member of the team, they were cheered on by family, friends and fellow team mates.

“When we first started, there were clumps of kids from the organizations and they sat with the kids they knew,” said Wicksted. “When we ran and passed the torch everyone cheered and used the person’s name. It was a real cohesive, collective, bonding experience.”

Following the run, they loaded onto the buses and went back to Village Square for hot chocolate, cookies, a formal wrap-up and watched a slide show of things they had done over the past year.
“The Torch lasted maybe half an hour,” said Wicksted. “But the day was a great experience!”
So, as we witness that flame Wicksted, and these youth carried light the cauldron in Vancouver, shall we all say “Let the Games Begin!”

***Photo: Bryce Motley, Adil Damani, Gus Adolf, Heather Wicksted, Keghan Young Pine, Sam Taylor, Kathleen Engel, Ashley Young, Rachel Hoppins, Jake Cox , Zach Hebert, Amanda Seliga, Chantelle Gill, Cassandra Spencer, Walter Pang, Courtenay Ferguson, Kieran Oliver, Ann-Marie Giannetti, Sheena Paris, Elisea De Somma, Jonathan Magat, Kaitlin Gordon
***Courtesy of Heather Hastie

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