The inaugural motionballU Marathon of Sport McMaster took place on Nov. 18. The event made for an exciting day of athletic competition that teamed up McMaster students with Special Olympics athletes in a variety of sports.

Motionball is a not-for-profit organization that builds awareness and raises funds for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation. Founded by brothers Paul, Mark and Sean Etherington in 2002, the organization has held 20 annual events in 18 cites across Canada and have donated over $8 million to the SOCF.

“Our goal was to help get Canada’s next generation involved in the Special Olympics movement through integrated social and sporting events,” said chairman and co-founder Paul Etherington. To continue to do so, the new motionballU program was designed to integrate their marathon of sport event into all the major universities across Canada over the next two to three years.

For Etherington, it is extremely important for students to get involved in organizations like motionball while they are young.

“As we get older, we quickly realize we have to be more well-rounded as a person,” said Etherington. “Yes, you have to be selfish and focus on your studies, your future career and on your friends and family, but there should be a portion of your everyday life that is giving back to your community.”

One Mac student who has recognized this importance at a young age is Dawson Lucier. The McMaster kinesiology student first heard of motionball at the Kinesiology Games, a student-run kinesiology conference.

After witnessing a presentation by motionball and Special Olympics athletes at the conference, Lucier was inspired to get involved with the organization and is now the student coordinator of motionballU Marathon of Sport McMaster.

“The athletes are very accomplished in their involvement with Special Olympics and to introduce the athletes to students at McMaster and vice versa is very important,” said Lucier. “It changes societal attitudes, increases understanding and it is a great fun day of sporting events for a great cause.”

Like Lucier, Mac kinesiology grad student Nelson Saddler also believes in the importance of integration. Nelson and his brother Spencer, who participated at motionball’s Marathon of Sport Toronto event as a Special Olympic athlete, have loved the organization ever since.

“It’s important to play with them and understand that they’re a part of our team,” said Nelson. “We want to increase integration and education as a whole when it comes to special needs.”

And for Spencer, getting to participate directly with the students makes him feel a part of team.

Over the next few years, Lucier is really looking forward to seeing motionballU Marathon of Sport McMaster grow and hopefully transition to an on campus venue so even more students can participate.

“I know that this will be a highlight event for everyone who attends it,” said Lucier. “It’s going to set the motion forward for motionballU for years to come.”

For the event director of Hamilton’s Marathon of Sport event, Alexandria Haggarty, passionate students like Lucier and Saddler are exactly who she hopes become involved in future Marathon of Sport Hamilton events.

Her brother Mark Haggarty, who has down syndrome, has been involved with the Special Olympics since he was five years old. She has seen first-hand the positive influence the SOCF has had on his life, and has been involved with the organization either traveling around with him, volunteering or coaching on his swim team.

Alexandria first heard about motionball while at Dalhousie University, and immediately knew she had to be involved. It was when she moved back to Ontario that she was able to bring her brother to the Toronto event to experience it for himself.

After participating in Toronto, her brother, who is one of Mac student’s favourite employees at the David Braley Athletic Centre, could not wait for the event to come to his hometown.

“We grew up in Hamilton, so he looked at me immediately and said ‘So when are we doing this in Hamilton?’” said Alexandria. “So the following year we looked into being able to set it up in Hamilton.”

Motionball has now held two events in Hamilton, and they have raised a total of $82,000 for the SOCF.

“MotionballU is a great opportunity for students to get to know the charity,” said Alexandria. “Our hope is that once they graduate if they stay within the area, or even if they move to other cities, they can join on to the full Marathon of Sport events. Hopefully students that will graduate from McMaster will come join the Hamilton event as either volunteers, committee members or participants.”

For students with a passion for sports and a heart for giving back to their community, getting involved with motionball’s Marathon of Sport events is the way to go. The successful McMaster event was hopefully the first of many for any Mac student who missed out.

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