Editor: I have appreciated your coverage of the Royal Canadian Legion Youth Track and Field Championships, which took place Aug. 9-11.
I have experienced another side of the event, and was amazed with what I learned, which I think should be shared.
I have summarized this and send it for you to use as you see fit, as a letter to the editor, or somewhere else.
I was truly awed when I found this out. The “why” of the event needs to be told.
I recently had the privilege of being a bus driver for the youth track and field championships, which took place at Neil McLeod Athletic Park. I ferried the teams from Newfoundland/Labrador and Prince Edward Island to and from the competition venue, back to their lodgings at Trinity Western University, j3
as well as to other events.
This track and field meet has become a huge event, with athletes having to meet high standards in order to compete on their provincial team. The Legion provides funding for those who qualify.
I understand this meet cost in the range of $600,000. This was the 37th annual national track and field championship, for athletes aged 14-17. This meet also commemorated the end of the Korean War, 60 years ago.
I knew nothing about this track and field meet at all, and watched in amazement as senior and elderly members of the Legion volunteered their time and energy, organized about 1,000 athletes, flew them in, fed them, housed them, transported them, officiated at track and field events, kept things on schedule, and you name it.
I finally asked one legionnaire why the Royal Canadian Legion and its members were running such a prestigious track and field meet.
He told me: “After the Second World War, many, many soldiers never came home again, dying overseas for the cause of freedom. Too many families were left without a father, and too many boys left without a Dad. War veterans realized that these young boys needed to be kept busy in a positive way, so the Legion started an athletics program. This quickly came to include girls too. Over the years, it evolved into this national athletic event.”
I find this astounding. What a wonderful concept. What a tribute to the Legion and our military veterans this is. I salute them.