Athletes Helping Athletes at the Sports Challenge

Athletes Helping 1 Athletes Helping 2 Athletes Help 3 Athletes Help 4 Athletes Help 5 Athletes Help 6Even though the Maccabiah Games are still two years away, the battle lines were drawn in the sand recently by eager, ageless athletes anticipating head to head battles over the right to be called champions of the ‘Sports Challenge’.

They weren’t representing traditional Games powers such as Canada, the United States, Israel, and the like. It was more of a reflection of old time ‘color war’ of youthful camp days, when purple battled blue, and gold fought lime green on the courts and fields that were the neutral sites for this competition for sport supremacy. The familiar cheers and screams of those by-gone days may have been turned down a notch, but the effort and enthusiasm among the participants and the crowd was as prevalent as ever.

And while the intensity of the competition was high, you could still sense the ‘Athletes Helping Athletes’ feeling generated by participants in Maccabi Canada’s First annual Sports Challenge. Eighty athletes and many supporters and volunteers gave up their day of rest (Sunday, Oct 2) and were able to help generate in excess of $50,000 for Maccabi Canada and the ‘Adopt an Athlete’ program. Private and corporate donations bumped that number up even further. The ‘Adopt an Athlete’ program, one of several new initiatives of the national body,  provides some funding for Maccabiah Games (2013) ‘open’ category competitors who need financial assistance to participate.

“The whole idea behind the fundraiser was to have games-related events”, said Maccabi Canada president Tommy Bacher. The team members, with their ages concealed by their youthful exuberance, ranged in age from 20 to 45 years old, competed in five sports – basketball, soccer, football, volleyball and baseball. Bacher said the teams were well balanced, with athletes demonstrating their prowess in various events. “Nobody found it easy,” said Bacher.

Volunteers and supporters who gathered at Camp Robin Hood in Markham included former Maccabiah Games athletes, such as volley player Josh Binstock, who acted as referees, players or venue organizers. Regardless of their roles, everyone braved the elements which went from blue skies to gray and from warm sunshine to wind and rain.  The last rotation of the competition was canceled but there were no complaints from competitors or fans who were also treated to food and beverages for their efforts.

After tabulating the points from the rotating competitions the overall champion was declared once the top two teams competed in a grueling obstacle course which wound it’s way throughout the sprawling facility. For those flashing back to results of their early days, Team Blue won the top prize, a private box at the Roger’s Centre for a Toronto Blue Jays game with award-winning ESPN broadcaster Dan Shulman as their host. Other prizes included Toronto FC soccer tickets, and gift certificates to WEGZ and Real Sport.

Bacher says the plan for 2012 is to hold the event again, but this time to take advantage of the likelihood of better weather associated with Maccabi Canada’s annual picnic in June.

In the meantime, Maccabi Canada is getting ready to send a contingent to the Pan-Am Games version of the Maccabiah hosted by Brazil over the Christmas holidays. It won’t be red versus orange this time though, but the games, like the Sports Challenge, promise to bring out the best of Maccabi Canada’s athletes.