Right to Play is a charity that bases its mission on using sport and play to empower children to overcome poverty, conflict and disease in underprivileged communities.

The organization has expanded its reach from Europe, after Norway’s four-time Olympic speed-skating gold medallist Johann Olav Koss pioneered the group.

There is now an active Right to Play community situated within McMaster University that has seen significant and rapid success.

The McMaster University Right to Play club spreads the word through soccer tournaments, ball hockey tournaments, and other events that get people on campus involved in the great cause.

The club has also partnered with GoodLife, and plays an active role in renowned races across Canada - such as the Scotiabank Half Marathon.

“It’s called ‘Race for the Change,’ and it takes place all over Canada,” said McMaster Right to Play research coordinator, Steph Merino.

The mission of right to play in this movement is to get the marathoners that are unsure of what charity to donate to, to put their money towards a good cause that is also sport-oriented.

“We talk to people that actually run all of these races and try to get them to fundraise for a reason,” said Merino, “So we go to running clubs and try to advertise for it.”

In terms of some of the other events that Right to Play hosts around McMaster, Merino mentions the outstanding amount of involvement that takes place amongst McMaster’s  student-athlete community.

“Last year we had our 24 hours of sport, and the women’s volleyball team and the men’s basketball team, all came out in support of the cause,” said Merino.

“We also had a couple booths at homecoming, and we had a couple people on the football team wear Right to Play bracelets.”

This year, with the help from the executive team, the Right to Play organization has gained popularity, as there has been an special effort to get more athletes representing each sport to become ambassadors for the organization.

One of the big events that the Marauders varsity athletes took part in included the “Go Shoeless” event which required the coaches and athletes to participate barefoot in a competition to raise money for Right to Play.

“Basically the men’s rugby team, women’s soccer team, fast-pitch, a bunch of the varsity athletes, the coaches and athletes went shoeless for a game in order to support right to play, so all of their proceeds went towards Right to Play,” said Merino.

Some of the athletes that have a very active involvement within Right to Play include women’s rugby player Yukino Fukoshimi, and women’s soccer player Jocelyn Wilkins.

These Marauders athletes have had a huge role within the organization and have done a lot for the movement.

“As a part of the Right To Play club, I help promote events and tournaments run throughout the year,” said Fukoshimi.

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“I’ve been helping educate my teammates about Right To Play as well; it’s nice to have a way to be globally aware and involved,” added Fukoshimi.

Although Fukoshimi is involved in the organization for the fun of it, she also credits her love for sport, and her desire for everyone to experience her passion for it to her involvement in Right to Play.

“Often, we don’t realize how lucky we are that we get to play sports - we grow up playing dodgeball, soccer, and all kinds of fun games throughout school and club sports. I can’t imagine having a life without sports and I don’t want anyone else to have to either - that’s why I support Right To Play,” said Fukoshimi.

As for Wilkins, she is heavily involved within the organization, and has visited the Right to Play Headquarters of Canada in Toronto a couple of times.

Her favourite part about being involved in Right to Play is being able to spread the word to others.

“I really like telling people about Right to Play, spreading the word about what they do and getting as many people involved in this organization as possible,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins main attraction to the organization is the fact that it allows people everywhere to participate in “play”- not sport. For her, there is a big difference between the two.

“This organization allows you to connect with others through play; notice how I didn’t say sport. I think a lot of people sometimes assume Right to Play has to do solely with sports, and don’t get me wrong, there can be a huge sport aspect, but the focus is on the word “play” - something that is universal around the world,” said Wilkins.

The world-renowned charity organization that is centered around sport and play has a large impact on athletes everywhere, and has been near and dear to the hearts of student-athletes at McMaster University.

“That’s why varsity athletes are coming out to our events, volunteering, donating, giving money for bracelets. They’ll give us five bucks, and we’ll tell them it’s only two bucks, and they tell us to keep the change,” said Merino.

“They truly enjoy the sport they love, so for them to be able to donate that to other children and athletes around the world, the way that sport has effected their lives and others lives, they identify with that and they love it.”

Right to Play has seen outstanding success at McMaster within the last year, mostly due to the awareness that has been brought to it.

For such a popular organization, with such talented student representatives, its popularity will only go uphill in years to come.

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