Today’s blog is written by Jordan Roller, a student at DePauw University who has been visiting PPI-NI over the past couple weeks with classmates, Coach Bill Fenlon, and Professor Tom Chiarella. Jordan writes about her experience at PPI-NI’s Summer Jam tournament that took place May 31st.
Children of all ages, boys and girls alike, were cheering, bouncing basketballs, and jumping on their coaches’ backs at Saturday’s Summer Jam. While each child looks different and has his or her own story, the one thing all the children have in common is that each wants to make new friends.
Writing as a visiting student from DePauw University, I can say this is the event the rest of the DePauw students and I have been waiting for all year. We had raised over $8000 (4,500 pounds) for the tournament. PeacePlayers staff put in so much effort to plan this event and gather these students together, and without their ambition and drive, the Summer Jam would not have been possible. More importantly, their enthusiasm inspires each child that is involved in PeacePlayers programs to be a better person and encourages them to put their best foot forward.
After working with different students from all over Belfast this past week, we have learned about the challenges that still exist today in Northern Ireland. I can speak for the rest of the DePauw students when I say I am happy a program like PeacePlayers exists to help bridge these divides and bring these children together. My fellow classmates and I saw friendships form at the Summer Jam, and to see that in action proves that PeacePlayers works.
Nine different teams with representatives from all parts of Belfast came together on Saturday to reach the same goal: to win the Summer Jam. As the day went on and the cheering from players, coaches, and volunteers rang out loud, an overwhelming feeling of “togetherness” filled the Stranmillis Gym. Teams from each part of the city wore different colors, but by the time the games were over, the colors merged together, and each team cheered the others on during the awards ceremony.
The awards ceremony not only recognized the winners of the tournament, but was also a time to recognize four children who went above and beyond the program’s expectations. These four kids were always hustling and encouraging their teammates, never giving up; that is what PeacePlayers International is all about.
West Belfast (coached by John and Conor) won the boys’ tournament while East II (coached by Jack and Pablo) took second place. East Belfast I (coached by Annabel and Ruairi) won the girls’ tournament with North II (coached by Michaela, Paxton, and Naomi) placing second. The Spirit Awards went to Anna Hinchcliffe for the girls and Ethan MGrattan for the boys. The Hustle Awards for the girls went to Erin Clarke, and Vincent Enginco took it home for the boys.
In summary, the Summer Jam was an amazing event! A big thank you to everyone involved – we will miss you guys!
PeacePlayers International – Northern Ireland would like to pass on its thanks and gratitude to Coach Fenlon, Professor Tom Chiarella, and the students from DePauw University for all of their hard work and the level of fundraising that they achieved. THANK YOU!