As I have mentioned in the past, when the world around me is fuzzy and unclear, I become dizzy and my confidence level gets a huge jolt – and not in a good way. Youth in sports at a competitive level must experience this as well – especially when under intense pressure to perform. As a delinquent with glasses (I either forget them or sit on them), I had a pressing question for Kaylyn Kyle and Soflens®.
JA: Do you see a change in the way youth play sports and their level of confidence when they make the switch from glasses to contacts?
Here is Kaylyn’s video response!
One of the benefits of my role at UrbanMommies is that I have the opportunity to experience new things and am constantly pushed in new directions. Often our staff is given the chance to be on the cutting edge of new research and products that genuinely help people. Those times, and our ability to share information and products that really make a difference, are the high points of the job. The insights I have been given into contact lenses through Kaylyn and Bausch + Lomb (and my subsequent confidence boost) have been some of the true highlights of my year. I hope that youth and parents everywhere can share the gift of sight and confidence.
And then there was the week that I didn’t really sleep. Olympian Kaylyn Kyle and I were behind in votes. I called in a ton of favours and spread the message in creative (and largely annoying) ways. Friends knew how important Liberia was to me and would ask daily about vote count. As I had an emotional drop-off of one of my kids at school, a mom embraced me and encouraged me to share about my children and my life. During our conversation I shared about “Level The Field” and her eyes lit up. She had worked for the Swedish Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is very familiar with the organization and the benefit of sports for kids. Rocking her newborn in the stroller, she mentioned that she had a few friends in the sports field (that was a pun..) and would reach out to them to help our cause for Health in Liberia.
Fast forward. Several days after the contest closed I was practicing square breathing and coaxing myself to carry on with life. My friends and colleagues didn’t want to ask too much. I was clearly distracted. I got the email indicating I would go to Liberia while headed to the gym and became one of those people on her phone during an hour of cardio I hadn’t really noticed. (I joked with Kaylyn that if we were to travel together she’d put my abs to shame). Could it be true? Could Liberia have won – when George Weah, one of Liberia’s most famous humanitarian athletes was a footballer as well? Liberia needs so much support after recent years of civil war. 200,000 people have died and it ranks amongst the poorest nations on the planet. Inequality. Sexual crimes. Disease. The women, children and the handicapped youth need the teachings of inclusiveness that Right To Play can offer.
A few days later I was on a press trip to Ottawa and was about to tour the Canadian Parliament Buildings when I got another email announcing the voter who had won the chance to accompany the group on our expedition. Her name is Lori Harasem and she lives in Alberta. With three kids she finds time to work as the Recreation and Culture Development Manager for the City of Lethbridge and volunteers too.
Apparently Lori and I had a mutual friend. Could it be? I sent a covert text to my friend from my sons’ school to see if she knew Lori. Apparently they were childhood friends and Lori was described as an extremely special, caring and loyal woman with a true believe and love of sport and play. I tingled head to toe. And then I toured the crucible of Canadian law and government feeling the importance of community, integrity and outreach. The stately building made me realize even further that our position as Canadians allows us to help other nations – other children. I am so honoured to be an ambassador for Right To Play. To represent my country and to help children smile. Somehow my kids’ Christmas lists don’t seem very pressing.
As I expressed to the other parent ambassadors when we were simultaneously told the news, I have been humbled just to be chosen to participate in the Level The Field program. The prestigious group of parents who participated did a stellar job, and I still marvel at the work put in and the exposure that was given to the organization. The true winners are the kids that we will be able to support through awareness and future donations. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all 6 West African nations could have oodles of funds flowing in? I know that Right To Play is dear to all of our hearts now and hopefully in time we will all be able to help all of the 6 countries. in the Level The Field program and the 20 countries Right To Play works in across the world. If you would like to receive the Right To Play newsletter, you can subscribe on their website.
I told my schoolyard mom friend the news and the next day she cornered me as we waited for the bell. Her son wants to start raising money to send soccer balls with me to Liberia. He has a plan. He’s 7. And clearly very special.
And then she learned the cha cha. Kaylyn Kyle isn’t lacking for much. A bronze medal in soccer for Canada’s National team in the 2012 London Olympic Games. A coveted spot with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The honour of being a Right To Play Athlete Ambassador. The ability to make others smile with her amazing savvy social media interactions. (And of course the long blond hair and being named multiple times as one of the most eligible women in Canada.) Kaylyn is currently learning the cha cha for a Saskatchewan charity gala similar to ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
A lover of action and being outdoors, Kaylyn is akin to the energizer bunny. She works with her trainer from 11 – 2:30pm every weekday, alternating 3 bouts of cardio with weight training and finishing with an abdominal workout. (PS. When you Google her you’ll see that it’s been pretty effective). I was thrilled to hear that she’s not a napper (neither am I) and that she takes any chance she can get to hit the mountains in any type of weather.
Fitness and well-being are clearly incorporated into every aspect of her life and since having started with Right to Play as an Athlete Ambassador, she mentions that she is now pursuing the only thing she hadn’t yet accomplished. When asked in an interview what was lacking from her life, she mentioned working for an organization such as Right to Play. After her comment was published in a Toronto newspaper, she immediately received a call from the organization with an offer to join them on a trip to Liberia to see Right To Play programs in action.
When I asked what Liberia was like, she compared it to her Olympic win in terms of the impact on her life. “It wasn’t the image of poverty that I brought home with me. It was the words of the children. I have never heard such gratitude expressed in such beautiful ways.”
Having started to play soccer at the age of six, her dream was to be an Olympian. When asked about her bronze medal win? “The best day of my life”. Now that the new North American Women’s Soccer League has been announced – 16 Canadian athletes will be a part of the team – Kaylyn is sure to enjoy a lot more wins.
A self-proclaimed tattoo addict, Kyle seems to cherish meaning in every moment. Her tattoos represent special places and events. One is from Dublin where her sister lives and you can guess the meaning of the Olympic rings. Her latest is ‘Believe in Yourself’. It’s funny how people meet. We were randomly paired together as a team in the Level The Field program for Right To Play at a challenging time in my life, and that particular quote is what I needed to hear.
There was so much that I didn’t expect when I was asked to participate in “Level The Field” to raise awareness about health in Liberia. I didn’t expect to feel the physical grief I do when I hear that a child dies every 26 seconds from preventable disease. I didn’t expect to be completely inspired to exercise and strive for my dreams from a professional athlete who is… a few… years my junior. And I didn’t ever expect the cause to be so important to me that so many other things would fall to the side as I harassed friends and family to show their support and vote. It’s been a bit shocking – both my passion and the community’s reaction. Many of my friends have set calendar reminders to vote daily and have sent me emails and texts with great facts on Liberia. I’ve been touched and awed by the other parent ambassadors who are working so hard to raise awareness about Right To Play and the work they do. I’ve been riveted by the little voices talking about play on the Right To Play video. And I have been inspired by Kaylyn.
Given that my Olympic debut is unlikely… (karaoke isn’t a sport right?), I would give anything to accompany her on her next journey to Liberia in order to see a program in action and help make an impact on a society that needs play and laughter.
It’s been a rough week. My son is having a hard time with self-esteem and handling stress. He is lashing out and struggling and as his mother, I feel my heart breaking piece by piece.
But today is soccer day. He was up, dressed and ready to get inspired by his coach and teammates. He runs. He plays. He tells the kid who missed the pass that it’s ok. Living in such a privileged community does not fix the growing pains that kids go through, but having abundant resources to help makes everything easier. I have seen first-hand how sport and guidance help children thrive.
I am honoured to be part of a new program with Right To Play called Level The Field. The organization operates to create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play to help create a level field and equal opportunities for children everywhere. Teamwork, cooperation and respect are explored in fun ways and community leaders act as coaches to change behaviours. Right To Play’s innovative methodology is grounded in a deep understanding of social learning theory and child development needs. Through sport and activities adapted from local traditional games, mental, physical and psycho-social well-being of the children improve. (And I have a hunch that the parents feel pretty good as they watch their children play and laugh.)
Typically my writing is laced with wit and fluff. But as I write today, tears are close. I read about the children in Liberia and I think about my son’s behavior. What do mothers feel when their children get sick because they haven’t learned that washing hands can prevent disease? If my heart is breaking from watching my son suffer, what would it be like for parents living in disadvantaged areas of the world? We all grow up with our own context and it is difficult to compare hardships, but I can’t help wanting to do everything in my power to help those moms smile as they watch their children thrive and grow.
Right To Play has given me the gift and opportunity to be able to help them raise awareness about the work they do every day, all over the world.. I have been partnered with Kaylyn Kyle, Vancouver Whitecaps soccer goddess and Olympic medalist. Together, we promote how we can help level the field for children through play with a focus on how play can positively impact the health of those in Liberia.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest incidences of malnutrition, infectious disease and other global health concerns. 85% of people live below the world poverty line*. A massive civil war between 1989-2003 not only modeled violent combat for the children, but it created a lack of trust in people from other communities. After Right To Play started working with local communities in Liberia in 2008, there are more organized sports and activities and people from various communities play together. Children are less likely to reach for weapons and fists to settle conflicts. And 183 local leaders and supervisors have been trained as positive role models. People with disabilities are now included in play, and girls and boys are now playing together more often, in a country with a high incidence of sexual violence and a history of gender inequality.
I’m embarrassed. Not only did I not know about the work done by Right To Play, but I didn’t have a handle on how bad things are in disadvantaged countries around the world. Did you know that 26,000 children under the age of 5 die every day? Infectious diseases such as HIV, measles and diarrheal disease are largely preventable. I can’t stop shaking at the thought of the mothers watching their toddlers die. We need to help. Please encourage Right To Play’s activities and help us promote children’s health in Liberia by visiting the Level The Field page on Facebook. By voting for our program, or the program you feel most passionately about on Facebook, you can help us raise awareness about Right To Play’s work and also enter for a chance to accompany the team with the most votes on a visit to see a Right To Play program in-action. We need to lessen the number of broken hearts in this world.