Raptors, Drake’s OVO Team Up for Welcome Toronto Initiative
The Malvern Community Recreation Centre was the place to be over the weekend.
The refurbished gym is just one of the four projects sponsored by the Toronto Raptors and Drake’s company, OVO (October’s Very Own). This was the first gym of the partnership’s Welcome Toronto initiative, which was launched earlier in the year and plans to donate $1 million to fix up the basketball facilities of four city-owned recreation centres.
“It’s nice to have this (place) in the neighbourhood. It’s not too far from my home. It’s fun,” said 10-year old Maya Johnson, who attended this weekend’s basketball camp sponsored by the team.
Producer and host at the MLSE, Akil Augustine credits the Raptors and Drake for the initiative, citing the importance of the Welcome Toronto project. Arriving to Canada from Trinidad, Augustine didn’t truly understand how vital basketball was to the culture in Canada at first.
“I didn’t really know much about the culture of Canada when I came. I think the one thing that all the kids in my neighbourhood did is play basketball. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the key times where we had nowhere to be and the gym was always open for us,” Augustine, who emigrated to Canada from Trinidad, recalled. “I know in this neighbourhood — it may be a little bit more intense than my (old) neighbourhood — these kids need to have this gym open. You know what you think of when you think of Malvern. And they (kids) think it too,”
But now, Augustine and many other people realize how basketball can be a tool and a resource to help kids grow.
“And so you need a place like this where you’re safe to come in . . . where you can shoot a basketball for hours on end, sweat, get angry, do a hard foul, celebrate. You can go through the whole gamut of human emotions in a gym and you don’t need much else but a ball,” he continued. “My life has changed tremendously because I’m a ballplayer. I may not play professional basketball but it’s a huge part of my identity. My physical fitness comes from it, my mental approach to problem-solving from it. I’m all for more gyms, more soccer fields, more badminton courts, more whatever you can do, because athletics is a huge way to develop positive people.”
The Welcome Toronto initiative is off to a fast and successful start!