McMaster, the Hamilton Boys and Girls club and an amazing race

This article was originally published in CBC Hamilton, Aug. 13, 2012

McMaster athlete Graham McKelvie looks forward to Thursdays when he visits the Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton to volunteer. He loves to spend time with the kids at the club.

“Playing with kids is the best part of my week,” said McKelvie, who is on McMaster’s rowing team and completing a degree in politics and history.

But for McKelvie, Saturday was the biggest day of all when there were 125 boys and girls from ages 8-14 participating in the Steel City Amazing Race.

Each team consisted of two McMaster volunteers and five youth. Racers explored and visited various community sites in Westdale, east and downtown Hamilton, all on foot or by public transportation.

Organized by McMaster Athletes Care (MAC) program, the inaugural Steel City Amazing Race aimed to promote healthy living, multiculturalism, education, teamwork, and leadership skills to kids. Participating youth were from lower-income families, referred by the Boys and Girls Club and Eva Rothwell Resource Centre.

“MAC focuses on providing opportunities for our student athletes to engage with at-risk youth, sharing with them the power of education and sport. Our athletes spend time with the youth, mentoring them and playing games. The program extends outwards from here to include bringing the youth to McMaster Marauder games and camps, breaking down the boundary between McMaster and the community,” said Rebecca Babcock, Fundraising and Events Coordinator for Steel City Amazing Race.

With 24 stations and five different routes, the event highlighted some local cultural gems, including Dundurn Castle.  Hamilton’s educational powerhouses, McMaster University and Mohawk College, were also on the route.

The race had strong community support, attracting 13 sponsors, including local businesses like Moksha Yoga and Green Smoothie Bar as well as media and corporate sponsors like CHML, Y108 Children’s Fund, Metro Inc. and U.S. Steel Canada.

With113 volunteers, the event also garnered support from McMaster alumni.

Recent psychology graduate, Glenda Babe, was quick to sign up to volunteer. She heard about Steel City through her work at McMaster Mini-University, a two-week youth-focused camp with hands-on instructional activities that gives kids a taste of university life.

For Babe, the interaction with the kids was the highlight of the race. She was motivated to volunteer as she considers becoming a teacher.

But the kids really were the stars of the event.

“Seeing the kids having fun, even when raining. They are really having a good time and I’m glad I can be a part of this,” said McKelvie.

And for Babcock, the best part about the event was “seeing the bubble break.”

“There was a sense of spirit that went beyond individual identity, connecting each person as a part of one whole group – Hamilton. That Hamilton is not defined by the institutions, businesses, suburbs or personalities of its residents, but instead defined by the one thing that connects each of us here — growth,” explained Babcock.

McMaster Athletes Care (MAC) is an initiative created by McMaster Athletics and Recreation. It aims to connect McMaster athletes with local charities. Since its inception in September 2011, 450 athletes have volunteered for Eva Rothwell and Boys and Girls Club.

You can view lots more photos on the CBC Hamilton Facebook page.