Charitable Choices: motionball team member Braeden Hunt

We love hearing about all of the Toronto charitable organizations people are a part of and why they are committed to making a change in other people’s lives. We have written about motionball and their efforts to raise money for the Special Olympics but this time we wanted to find out from one of their team members why they joined and what makes them want to be a part of this organization. Here is our chat with Braeden Hunt.

braeden Hunt

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

motionball is a national not-for-profit organization that empowers young Canadians to be leaders in their communities, raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics so that individuals with intellectual disabilities can lead happier, healthier lives. Nationally, we are proud to host 40+ annual events in 20 Canadian cities. Since its inception in 2002, motionball has donated over $11,000,000 net to Special Olympics and continues to expand.

What problem does it aim to solve?

We’ve noticed a significant difference between the number of Canadians living with an intellectual disability and the total number of athletes that Special Olympics Canada (SOC) has enrolled in their programs. Knowing that 2% of all Canadians are intellectually disabled, the 47,000 Special Olympic athletes registered today makes up only 10% of the total community.

The primary reasons I hear for individuals not getting involved with Special Olympics are cost, availability of programs near them, and/or a lack of awareness of opportunities. Through our mission, motionball hopes to influence a positive change in these numbers by educating more Canadians, building awareness and growing funds to support the SOC movement.

When did you start/join it?

I first participated in a motionball Marathon of Sport during Orientation Week at Queen’s University in 2011, and became involved in organizing events the following year as part of the inaugural motionball University committee. Since joining, I’ve helped to grow motionball by launching event chapters in Kingston, Hamilton, and Kitchener/Waterloo. For the past two years I’ve volunteered time on the executive committee for the Toronto Marathon of Sport.

What made you want to get involved?

Participating in the Marathon of Sport was one of my favourite memories of Orientation Week, and first year as a whole.

My younger cousin has autism, and growing up I can remember the lengths my aunt went to trying to provide him the support, education and opportunities that many of us take for granted.

What pushed me to get involved was the connection that comes from an integrated experience like the Marathon of Sport. I had participated in a few not-for-profit events, but I found this level of integration and connection unique to motionball. Playing alongside the athletes we work to support allows participants to understand the impact Special Olympics has on their lives and creates an immediate connection to the movement. I saw in motionball an organization that cared most about supporting the opportunities for all Canadians with an intellectual disability and changing the way we approach the conversation.

I think of my cousin each event, and am proud of the expanding opportunities that motionball is able to fund for the next generation of Canadians.

braeden Hunt

What was the situation like when you started?

When I started with motionball, at its core it was a very close family of supporters, volunteers, staff and leadership. We were running about 10-12 events nationally, and we were the only university program. We were a committee of ten students and supported one event of about 150 people.

For our committee at Queen’s, we focused on educating our student body and sharing motionball with as many faculties as we could. Thinking back, we were thrilled with $1,000 in net fundraising for our first committee organized event.

The Etherington brothers were incredibly supportive and would frequently make the trip to Kingston to help host our events, and national office provided us with great support.

How has it changed since?

motionball has grown significantly in the past 8 years. Today, the motionballU program I was first involved with has spread across Canadian colleges and universities and is a driving force to engage younger generations with the Special Olympics movement.

New cities have joined and staple events like the Marathon of Sport Calgary, Vancouver and Kelowna all blew past the $100,000 net annual fundraising mark years ago. It wasn’t long ago that the Toronto Marathon of Sport surpassed $200,000 in net fundraising for the first time, and this year our goal is an incredible $450,000 net.

The passion, engagement, and initiative of the volunteer leaders has brought us to a point of critical mass. When I speak about motionball, I don’t find myself explaining what it is very often anymore. People hear motionball and say, “I’ve heard of that. My friend/partner/coworker was there last year and it looked amazing, they loved it”.

Though this is partly due to the scale of the Toronto Marathon of Sport and the Toronto Gala, a huge component of our growth has been the passion and energy of our participants. They share stories and bring friends the next year, as that cycle repeats year over year the growth is exponential.

What I’m amazed by is that through all of our growth, the core mission and leadership of motionball has remained consistent. As organizations grow it can be easy for communication to be disorganized and the spirit of the event to be lost in a crowd of people. The Etherington brothers and the incredible staff at motionball’s national office have done an amazing job welcoming new event directors, volunteers, and participants into the motionball family. I’d still describe motionball as a close family, we’re just a bit bigger now!

What more needs to be done?

For all that we’ve been able to do educating Canadians on the Special Olympics movement and engaging them through events, there remains a significant opportunity to increase the enrollment of Canadians with an intellectual disability in programs offered by Special Olympics Canada. Many communities and programs are looking for volunteers and coaches who can support local teams and increase the opportunities for athletes. Sometimes having a great coach or friend at a few events can make a meaningful impact on an athlete’s enjoyment of the day and is a great way to show support.

One big area we’re focused on off the playing field is the #NoGoodWay campaign. The aim of the #NoGoodWay campaign is to eliminate the word “retard” from everyday conversation. Today it’s often used casually, and even if people don’t mean it in “that way,” the word is rooted in discrimination, bullying, and exclusion for many of the Canadians we’re supporting. We’re working with our partners to ask everyone to stand with the 1 in 100 Canadians living with an intellectual disability.

How can our readers help?

We’re always looking for passionate volunteers to help our existing events and great leaders to help us grow to new cities. If you’re interested in getting involved to help with events, I invite you to reach out to Cassie Chambers (cassie@motionball.com) to learn more.

We’re fortunate to have great support from our national sponsors who support all of our events, but we also have a number of local sponsors who donate and support individual chapters. If you feel that your company might be interested in getting involved with motionball, as a participating team or sponsor, please reach out to Julie Lafazanidis (julie@motionball.com) to explore an opportunity.

If your calendar is busy but you still want to support our incredible athletes, I invite you to donate in support of motionball and Special Olympics here: http://mball.ca/mos-23892. If you know someone participating, you can also search for their name and donate specifically to them.

Finally, share the word about motionball, our events and the #NoGoodWay campaign. We invite everyone to take the pledge to stop using the r-word in their vocabulary, and readers can join the other Canadians who have at motionball.com/nogoodway/.

Do you have any events coming up?

Yes we do! On Saturday, May 25th, we kick off our Marathon of Sport season with the Toronto Marathon of Sport at Downsview Park. With 84 Teams of young professionals participating, over 150 Special Olympic athletes, and an army of volunteers, this is motionball’s largest Marathon of Sport and highest net fundraiser. Last year we set an event record by surpassing $400,000 net in fundraising. This year our goal is $450,000 net! It’s an inspiring day and I invite anyone interested in motionball or Special Olympics that hasn’t been to an event to stop by, watch and cheer on our teams.

From there, we’ll have as many as 3 events each weekend in cities across Canada through to the Fall Classic Golf Tournament.

Where can we follow you?

To stay up to date on motionball Toronto activities, follow @motionballto or @motionball on Instagram, and @motionballTO and @motionball on Twitter.

 

 

Joel Levy
About Joel Levy 1690 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography