Inspiring others through sport

Katie Brickman
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Vanier duo hosting basketball games to raise money

Two high school athletes are paying it forward.

From left to right, Cole Allan, Mackenzie Johnson, Makenzie Murdock and Zak Konopaki posed at the 2013 Doha GOALS Conference in Qatar earlier in December. The four students joined with six other Saskatchewan students at the prestigious sports-oriented conference. Submitted photo             

Makenzie Murdoch and Mackenzie Johnson are seniors at Vanier Collegiate and are trying to sponsor someone to get an opportunity like they had earlier this year.

“It was such an amazing opportunity and one that doesn’t come about very often,” said Murdoch. “We learnt a lot and now we want to give someone else a similar opportunity.”

Four Vanier students — Murdoch, Johnson, Zak Konopaki and Cole Allen went to Doha, Qatar for a sport development conference called Doha Goals.

They were part of the delegation from Olympism4Humanity (O4H) and they are now using those connections they made to help another person.

“We wanted to give someone else an opportunity much like ours to receive the knowledge that sports can offer,” she said.

They heard about the O4H praxis summer program, which is a similar conference to the Doha Goals.

“We talked with our advisor, Jay (Mafukidze) that we wanted to sponsor someone to go over to that conference and learn,” said Murdoch.

Mafukidze is a professor at the University of Regina and a co-founder of the O4H organization.  They worked with her and the other founder of O4H, Alexis Lyras to find the right person for them to sponsor.

That person was Puni Gaegsewe from Botswana. She is a 25-year-old that is currently teaching at the learning centre school in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana in Africa.

“She was really perfect for the initiative,” said Murdoch. “We are really stoked.”

It wasn’t an easy process to pick Gaegsewe, but now the three of them are good friends.

“It was a long and tedious way in how we decided on her just because it was so important that this person was perfect for the conference. Someone that would be proactive and take their education back to their community so that they would benefit,” explained Murdoch of their requirements. “She was really humbled and really excited.”

The Vanier athletes were in contact with Lyras, who picked Botswana, as he thought the community would greatly appreciate from the initiative.

He emailed Dr. Jimoh Shehu, the president of physical education at the University of Botswana and within 24 hours had emailed Murdoch and Johnson the name of Gaegsewe as the perfect candidate.

“We know her really well now, but we didn’t know her until we contacted her,” said Murdoch. “We have emailed her a lot and both of us could say we are good friends with her.”

Now in order for them to be able to sponsor Gaegsewe to go to Greece for this program, they have to raise $4,000.

They are hosting two basketball games this Saturday at 2 p.m. with high school students and another immediately after featuring community members.

“We actually weren’t expecting to have this much support from the community,” said Murdoch. “A lot of the community is eager for this to succeed, which is great.”

All the players participating in the games were asked to raise money through pledges. In addition to those funds, there will be an admission charge and donations will be accepted as well.

“We wanted to show how sport can do so much for a community,” said Murdoch.

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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