The Gee-Gees men’s and women’s basketball programs had a helping hand in a great community event. The programs teamed up with a local youth advisory committee, the West End Youth Motivators (WEYM) to volunteer at their #Balling4OurBrothers 3 on 3 basketball tournament.
The tournament is put together to encourage youth to make good choices in life and make positive impacts in their community. The WEYM say, “This tournament is created to help recognize all our brothers and sisters who are no longer with us, also for those who fell into gang affiliations. It is also targeted to shed light on factors that corrupt our communities. We also hope to promote a sense of community through a series of guest speakers, such as former NFL player Christo Bilukidi and much more.” The tournament involves youth ages 13-18 with 3 divisions including girls, junior boys and senior boys.
Gee-Gees players Calvin Epistola, Brooklynn McAlear and Sophia Blair Marshall helped with refereeing the 3 on 3 games, provided mentorship to the young basketball players and played alongside the impressionable youth.
Tournament organizer, youth worker and program developer Omar Mahamoud spoke about how an event like this makes a positive impact in the local youth community.
“This tournament brought not just the community together, but the city as well. The University of Ottawa’s support was a big plus as it promoted sports and higher education. This was what we wanted to shed light on. Sports also have the power to uplift people during tough times. This west end community lost numerous youth over the last several years to drugs and violence. Such events always bring out the true face of the community and not what is portrayed in the media. Most of the youth in this community aspire to attend colleges and universities. Seeing and talking to student athletes will motivate them to achieve their goals.”
Since the participants in this event were between 13-18 years old, it was very inspiring for them to have local student athletes there to coach them in life and in basketball.
“Having athletes like the uOttawa Gee-Gee’s basketball players and coaching staff was very inspiring to the youth,” Said Omar. “The youth look up to them in an admirable way and they have the influence to empower them and keep them reaching for their dreams. The youth who participated in this tournament were all athletes who aspire to take their skills to the next level. Only athletes understand what other athletes go through to make it. We couldn’t have asked for a better group to inspire our youth. This event will forever be imbedded in our youth’s minds.”
Omar also took the time to explain some of the challenges that these youth face and how sports help them get through those struggles.
“If you ask the youth who participated in this tournament who their role models are, I bet 90% of them would name an athlete. Sports are part of the community fabric. Sports take them to a happy place regardless of what they are going through. Here, basketball and fitness has always been a passion and is a real method of community cohesion. In this community, things can get rough since drugs and gang activity are common. If the youth stay focused on education and fitness, their future will be bright. This is why having student athletes like the Gee Gee’s players and coaching staff was so important. It gave them hope and the belief that they can do it too. Having athletes present will enable them to believe that anything is possible through hard work and consistency.”
A youth advisory committee like the West End Youth Motivators is a shining example of how to bring a community together to make positive impacts on the lives of youth. The Gee-Gees were happy to be associated with such a great cause and look forward to future events with the Ottawa community.