Jays Care working with city children to make our communities stronger

Jays Care working with city children to make our communities stronger

December 21, 2017

Unstoppable Kids pose in Blue Jays uniforms with Blue Jays pitcher Aaron SanchezSeven Unstoppable TCHC kids pose with Jays Care participants and Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez. 

Last month, seven boys and girls from Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods took part in the 2018 Jays Care Unstoppable Kids campaign. The campaign recognizes kids from across Canada for the outstanding effort and leadership they showed in youth programs on and off the field. 

Unstoppable Kids sit in a circle in the BLue Jays dressing room playing a game. Jays Care youth participants visit the Blue Jays dressing room.

The seven TCHC Unstoppable Kids were part of a larger group of 18 kids and youth from across Canada from Rookie League, Home Run Scholars, Challenger Baseball and Girls at Bat, who were chosen by Jays Care staff to be hosted at the Rogers Center for a day of fun activities, workshops and filming interviews.

Nyla, centre and Kalifa, left on the baseball field at the Rogers CentreTCHC Unstoppable Kid Nyla, centre, poses on the field at the Rogers Centre.

Nyla was chosen as one of the Jays Care Unstoppable Kids. She said being recognized as unstoppable means, "We can do anything and you can't stop us. So when I grow older I can play [baseball] and become a professional baseball player." Another student, Kalifa, said that being an Unstoppable Kid meant that "No matter what happens you won't give up."

Kalifa prepares for an interview recordingTCHC Unstoppable Kid Kalifa poses for the camera as the film crew prepares for her interview.

The youth came from all over Canada to tell their stories and celebrate their achievements. By sharing these stories through videos and interviews, Jays Care hopes to help raise awareness of Jays Care's programs and involve even more young people.

Describing the selection process, Robert Witchell, Director of Jays Care said, "We have some bright stars here. On the field and off the field they're absolute heroes. We thought, let's bring them to the Rogers Center and celebrate them. Then it sort of snowballed from there and we thought, why not feature these kids who are doing such great work in our programs, in our campaign?" 

Jays Care staff member giving a group of Unstoppable Kids a tour of the Rogers Centre.A group of kids tours the Rogers Centre as they wait for their turn in front of the camera.

Stepping inside the Blue Jays' dressing room, the kids got changed into custom baseball gear provided by Jays Care and made their way onto the field. They received a guided tour of the Rogers Centre and visited the media booth, Jays Care Playhouse and the Blue Jays batting cage. At each stop, the kids played games and practiced setting short and long-term goals. 

Group of kids stand in Blue Jays batting cage playing a game. Each stands in a circle pointing to their partner. The off-field group plays a game inside the Blue Jays batting cage.

After lunch the kids enjoyed a visit from Blue Jays' pitcher Aaron Sanchez, who stopped by for photographs and autographed baseballs for all everyone. The next surprise included a special video message from Cynthia Appiah, a former program participant and TCHC resident who is now in Calgary training for the Canadian women's Bobsleigh team in the upcoming Olympics. 

BLue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez hands Kalifa a signed baseball. Aaron Sanchez hands Kalifa an autographed baseball.

Reflecting on her day,  Kalifa said she was happy with the experience, "I got to do new things and take a step forward. The more you experience things the closer you get to achieve your dreams." Another child, Mario said, "It feels great walking through the Rogers Centre where the Blue Jays walked. It's really big."

For Josh McDonald, another former Jays Care program participant, the lessons these kids learn on the field go far beyond just sport. "Through the program, a lot of kids develop their social and leadership skills, as well as their personal and educational goals heading into high school. The Rookie League program is definitely a strong program that helps shape who they are from the start and who they're going to become. That's how I started with Rookie League."

Director of Jays Care Robert Witchell shows TCHC Unstoppable kid a glass display. The Director of Jays Care, Robert Witchell, shows off a Blue Jays Display in the locker room area.

Through the Jays Care programs, kids and youth have a safe space to go to, are able to make a lot of new friends and learn how to play different sports. McDonald firmly believes Jays Care programs help shape kid's futures by empowering them to do more and be more. "By showing them that they are not limited to one option in life, they can decide and choose the better one."