Ambassadors Creating Games Buzz
Fanning out across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, a diverse group of community leaders is working its connections and forging new friendships to blaze a trail of excitement and awareness from Oro-Medonte to Welland, and Caledon to Markham for the TORONTO 2015 Games.
Their goal: the creation of a truly inclusive and diverse Games that leave a positive social legacy in the region’s communities.
“Toronto is proudly a cultural mosaic but our communities aren’t interconnected,” explained Fernando Lusvarghi, co-chair of the TO2015 Community Engagement Council. “I believe the TORONTO 2015 Games and our community engagement initiatives will help bring everyone together.”
Lusvarghi is one of the 20-plus members of the council —one of eight such advisory groups struck for the Games— who are volunteering their time and expertise to guide TO2015 in its mission to make everyone feel a part of the ‘People’s Games.’
They’re also tasked with helping to spread the word to traditionally under-represented members of the community about the TORONTO 2015 sport program, economic benefits, volunteering and job opportunities.
“This council is helping us extend our reach so that all members of the region can participate and take advantage of the opportunities the Games present, from small- and medium-sized businesses interested in procurement to families who are eager to learn about our affordable ticketing program,” said Zenia Wadhwani, TO2015’s Director of Community Outreach. “Our community advisers also have an ear to the ground and can relay to us the concerns and ideas of the people they meet so that we can quickly act on them.”
Wadhwani said she’s thrilled community leaders from all walks of life and backgrounds, from community, cultural, corporate and sport organizations, have eagerly stepped forward to join the council. “They recognized this is a major, unique event coming to this region and there’s a need and desire and honour to be a part of something so great, ” she continued.
Paralympic gold medallist Giselle Cole, who co-chairs the council with Lusvarghi, said she got involved because she wants to help build a Games that creates inclusive, multi-layered opportunities for athletes, youth, businesses and volunteers.
“I would like to see strong businesses and fabulous venues. I would like our young people to be invested in positive role models. I see festivals and other community events promoting this amazing opportunity,” she said.
As the treasurer of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Ontario, Cole said she’s especially looking forward to getting the Trinbagonian community involved in the Games. “We're going to need an army of volunteers to host the athletes and all of our visitors. We intend to be in the stands to cheer everyone as they offer us their best. After all, these are ‘the People’s Games.’”
The Games are also a fantastic opportunity for people to explore and celebrate the cultures of the 41 American and Caribbean countries that have found a home in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and who will be participating in 2015, added Lusvarghi, the Coordinator of Volunteers and Community Relations for St. Christopher House and the Child Development Institute in Toronto.
“I hope to see the city united like never before and embrace the Games as an opportunity to improve lives through mutual respect and understanding,” he said.
Bringing together people of diverse backgrounds to work towards a common goal may be one of the greatest social legacies of the TORONTO 2015 Games, Wadhwani said.
“We see the Games as a catalyst that pulls groups together. Through its connections, we hope the council builds new and enhances existing networks that can help with future events and initiatives.”