A significant event known for launching aspiring young athletes into the international spotlight was given a financial boost from its host community.
The Royal Canadian Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary of BC/Yukon Command received $15,000 from the Township of Langley to help host the 2013 and 2014 Legion national youth track and field championships. Mayor Jack Froese presented the sponsorship money to championships co-chair Sharel Fraser and director of special projects, partners and sponsors Ted Stout on Monday (June 24).
The championships, which will be held in the Township for two years in a row, will see more than 1,000 14- to 17-year-old athletes vie to be named among the best Canadian track and field athletes while competing in events leading to world championships or Olympic Games.
“We are really excited to be hosting these championships in our community,” said Froese. “This is a high-level competition that is known to feature athletes who have gone on to represent Canada internationally. Some of the best young track and field competitors from across the country will be coming here to further their athletic dreams and it will be thrilling to see them in action.”
The 2013 Legion national youth track and field championships will be held Aug. 9 to 11 at McLeod Athletic Park, which was recently upgraded to benefit both athletes and spectators. The Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club will host the competition, which will return to the Township in the summer of 2014.
“The Township of Langley was chosen to host these events because it is unquestionably one of the premier sport hubs in B.C.,” said Fraser, noting that this summer’s championships will host a number of “firsts.”
For the first time, para-athletes will compete, a website will broadcast competitions to athletic clubs around the world, championship alumni will mentor participants, and 30 aspiring young journalists will receive broadcasting experience as a two-hour special on the event is created by Shaw.
As well, fundraising for the Legion national youth track and field championships is being done by the Legion’s Ladies’ Auxiliary for the first time in the event’s history.
“80-year-old ladies are working very hard to raise $600,000 to put on these events,” Fraser said with a smile, adding that the championships are expected to bring $12.2 million of economic activity into the community over the two summers.
Forty universities will be coming to scout for talent during the championships, which are held in partnership with Athletics Canada as well as schools and clubs throughout the country.
“It is remarkable to see how young people get their paths charted through these kinds of events,” Fraser said. “It’s a life changing experience.”
The Legion national youth track and field championships originated after the First World War through the Legion’s Foster Fathers’ Program. Tens of thousands of children were orphaned, and the program was created to teach them leadership, how to live a healthy lifestyle, and become good citizens. Part of the initiative was based on athletic achievement and competitive sport, and the Legion’s exceptional track and field program —which included track meets and clinics — was created.
“For many athletes who have gone on to international success it was the starting point of their careers,” Stout said. He pointed out that at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, every Canadian medal winner had participated in the Legion’s national track and field program.
While in Langley, visiting athletes will also learn what it is to be Canadian. They will be presented with cultural experiences from local Aboriginal and Chinese groups and take part in acts of remembrance with veterans, including donating a tree to the Township’s Walk to Remember memorial grove at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum.
“This is not just a sporting event; it really is developing youth,” said Froese. “The Township will open our arms wide for this event and show our great volunteer spirit.”