Skater supports charity program

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

It has been a few months since speedskater Clara Hughes helped bring the Right To Play movement to the forefront during a multiple medal-winning performance at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

It was then that she donated $10,000 of her own money to the movement, and put out a challenge to all Canadians to give money as well.

Now, a few months -- and close to $400,000 -- later, it will all be front and centre again today, at least on the local front.

Toronto mayor David Miller has declared today Right To Play Day.

The program targets the more disadvantaged areas of the globe, implementing sports programs for young people there. The other objective today is to launch a Canadian school program that blends physical activity with exercises in character development and social studies.

Organizers hope to convince local school teachers, most in the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, to book in 15 minutes of organized physical activity today.

Today, the website objective is $500,000, after the $400,000 mark was passed.

A large part of that has been the work of athletes like Hughes in helping generate awareness of the cause. She and Beckie Scott, the Olympic medal-winning cross-country skier, just got back from Ethiopia, where they took in how the sport development program operates.

"There's no such thing as an Olympic letdown after going to Africa," she said. "You can't feel sorry for yourself. We can now talk about what's going on there, and we can show that much more enthusiasm (for the movement)."

Hughes and Scott will be hand for an event at 2 p.m. today at Nathan Phillips Square, joined by Johann Olav Koss, the four-time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating.

Scott and Hughes also will be on hand tonight at the Jays-Boston Red Sox game to throw out the first pitch, and meet and greet fans before the game at Rogers Centre.


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