January 29, 2010 – Right To Play Athlete Ambassador and Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes has been named Canada’s flag bearer for the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver.
A long time supporter of Right To Play, Hughes inspired a flood of new supporters for the organization following her gold medal win at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. Following her victory, Hughes made a personal donation of $10,000 to Right To Play and challenged Canadians donate what they could. This simple call to action raised nearly half a million dollars in support Right To Play’s programs in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.
In her blog ‘What Play Means to Me’ Hughes recalled the inspiration for this amazing act of generosity. She was sitting in her hotel room in Turin, flipping through the channels on television to pass the time, when the screen filled with images from Africa.
“Children from the war torn country of Uganda appeared. They were dirt poor and so shy, sneaking glances at the cameras and then quickly looking away. In front of them stood a group of foreigners in bright yellow t-shirts with RIGHT TO PLAY boldly printed on the front of the shirts.
The narrator talked of the poverty and the difficulties Uganda has gone through for so long. I learned of child soldiers and how difficult it was for these children to reintegrate into the communities they were so ruthlessly stolen from. I learned of the horrors they endured and performed, not out of choice. And then, I saw for the first time, Right to Play in action.
I saw these kids and this transformation was exactly that: finding joy in the struggle. I reflected on the path I was still traveling, the one that led to the race that was now so close. I thought of my own struggle and somehow it all seemed so insignificant. I thought ‘If these children can find joy in their struggle, the certainly, so can I!’ No matter what I would face in the 5000m of speed skating that I had the chance to race that evening, I knew clearly I could and would overcome.”
Since her gold medal win in Turin, Hughes has visited Right To Play projects in Ethiopia and Ghana, in 2006 and 2008 respectively, and she has continued to be an inspiration to Canadians supporting the organization.