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All-Star Stories

Every week throughout the 2018 season, Jays Care will share the story of a select child in Jays Care programming who has been inspired by the game of baseball and the Blue Jays. Follow along all season to see our latest Jays Care All-Star Stories!

Avery, Age 6

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Challenger Baseball

Avery is an inspiration for people of all abilities. Avery greets every person she meets with a huge smile, a hug, and a personality that radiates positivity. This exuberance extends to the diamond where you couldn't imagine a better Challenger Baseball teammate than Avery Rankin. A bona fide athlete with a gift to share, Avery practices every drill and plays every game with unparalleled joy and dedication. Avery has made an enormous impact on her Antigonish Challenger Baseball League, but baseball has made an impact on Avery as well. Through playing sports, her coordination has improved and she has become more confident and self-reliant in everyday tasks. Lynnette, Avery's mom, describes her memory of Avery independently hitting a pitched ball this past Challenger Baseball season as "an incredible milestone for Avery, as it demonstrated how far her coordination has developed. It was a powerful moment for me, as her Mother, to witness this independence, and a real sign of the fearlessness and ability in this young person." Whether it's through song, dance or play Avery exudes a gentle optimism that warms the collective hearts of her community and her teammates. Inspired by the way Avery celebrates each day, we are honoured to celebrate her as this week's #AllStarStory!

Rocelyn, Age 19

Toronto, Ontario

Rookie League

Rookie League at Glamorgan is truly a special place. Love, warmth and kindness permeate from the walls of this Toronto Community Housing site. At the centre of this all is a soft-spoken 19-year-old named Rocelyn Uy. Rocelyn is a Jays Care Camp Coach and a natural born leader. At age 7, her family moved to Canada from the Philippines in search of a better education and future for herself and her brothers. Now, a third year undergraduate student at McMaster University, Rocelyn spends her summers inspiring the next generation at Rookie League. The chance to give back to youth in her community is something Rocelyn relishes. She encourages campers to share their feelings and spread kindness through creative displays on the walls ensuring that every camper feels a deep sense of belonging at the site. "I think leadership is such a valuable skill and I'm so thankful that I've been given the opportunity to not only practice this skill but also for the confidence to exercise it and help to impact kids," shares Rocelyn. To recognize Rocelyn's incredible contributions to Rookie League, she was selected to receive our 2017 Rookie League Hall of Fame Award and we are thrilled to recognize her as this week's #AllStarStory!

Young Leaders in Shawanaga

Shawanaga First Nation, Ontario

Girls At Bat

In Shawanaga First Nation, diamonds really are a girl's best friend. The girls in Shawanaga have fallen in love with the game of baseball. This past May, Jays Care staff members visited the community to train local leaders on running baseball for development programming specifically designed for girls aged 5-17. Over the next months, a dedicated group of local young women have been using baseball to inspire girls in Shawanaga. One of these leaders is Kyla, who facilitates Girls At Bat and takes immense pride in inspiring her community's next generation. "Seeing the girls work together, think critically, and most importantly respect themselves and each other is by far the most meaningful way that Girls At Bat has empowered our youth," states Kyla. The program has taken off with over half of the girls in Shawanaga stepping up to the plate and participating. "A few of the girls didn't really have a connection to sports. By the end of the second session, the girls were all talking about which team join in our local baseball league," Kyla shares. Girls At Bat is only the beginning for Shawanaga First Nation as the community plans to empower even more of the community's youth through the game of baseball over the coming years and months!

Tricia, Age 26

Toronto, Ontario

Rookie League

Tricia inspires the next generation through the game of baseball. As a Rookie League Camp Coach, Tricia will spend her summer working with youth in Jays Care's Rookie League program running in Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods. In preparation for the season, a dedicated group of Camp Coaches have spent weeks in training facilitated by Jays Care, honing their skills to have the greatest impact on the youth in their communities. As this training wrapped up, Marcus Stroman even stopped by to share his passion for inspiring the next generation. For Tricia, her work with Rookie League is about developing future leaders. She believes that, "sport is a powerful tool to inspire the next generation. It helps the youth become active, involved, engaged and to develop life skills that stay with them forever." After weeks of training, the Rookie League season starts on July 6th for Tricia and her motivated group of peers. "I honestly can't wait to incorporate the baseball skills and drills with the youth! I can't wait to fill the youth's E-Tanks (Emotional Tanks) by motivating them, supporting them and providing them with positive feedback. As the saying goes Peace, Love and Positive Vibes Always!" The Rookie League season is only one week away and Tricia and her fellow Camp Coaches are excited to inspire change in communities all across Toronto and the country!

Quentin, Age 12

Mississauga, Ontario

Challenger Baseball

Baseball is in Quentin's blood. Quentin's father, David, played Division 1 College Baseball in the United States and his avid love of the game has been passed on from father to son. Quentin prides himself on learning every detail of the game even swinging a bat at home as he watches the Blue Jays play, imagining that he's playing the game himself. Now through the Challenger Baseball program, Quentin has the chance to play ball for the first time. This past May, a contest was held by Jays Care to find a child who embodies the spirit and ideals of Challenger Baseball to throw out the first pitch before a Blue Jays game. Quentin's Challenger coach Ashley nominated him and shared his story, "Quentin would always get excited when a Jays game was on because he knew he could watch it with his dad. He would say that he wanted to play baseball like his dad, and now with Challenger, he can! The smile on his face and his dad's on Saturday was one I will never forget." The story of a father and son bonding over baseball struck a chord and Quentin was selected to throw out the first pitch on June 2 before the Blue Jays took on the Yankees. Like a true team, there was David, right by Quentin's side for the pitch. The crowd roared, his father beamed and Quentin threw a strike creating a memory both father and son would never forget.


Noah, Age 16

Moncton, New Brunswick

Challenger Baseball

For Noah, baseball is family. Baseball gives Noah the opportunity to play as part of a team, to socialize and to connect to his community. Since the first day of the first summer of the Greater Moncton Field Of Dreams Challenger Baseball program, Noah has been a fixture at the diamond every Monday night. Noah's mother, Tracy, speaks passionately about the impact she's seen Challenger Baseball make on her son, sharing that "the most meaningful part for Noah is that he is included, his friends use the same baseball diamond. He's been there since it opened and he takes great pride in that-knowing he has a say into what goes on with the field. It's just as much his as anyone else's." Monday nights at the diamond are reserved for Challenger Baseball and for many the sense of community extends to the entire family. Tracy shares that "we all go and sit, bring out lawn chairs and talk with other families while watching our kids play. We talk about life with special needs children, and its just a really nice time. You just sit there with a smile on your face the whole hour and a half!" As for Noah, his sense of inclusion also extends to his favourite baseball team. When asked who his favourite Blue Jays player is, Noah thoughtfully replies "I would probably say all of them, I don't want to leave anyone out!" For all that Noah has done for Challenger Baseball in Moncton, we're thrilled to recognize him as this week's #AllStarStory. Congratulations Noah!

James, Age 11

Toronto, Ontario

Play Ball!

James doesn't speak, act or lead like your typical eleven-year-old. "I never miss a game or a practice. I just love this sport so much and I live and breathe it! I listen to my teammates when we lose and help them feel good again even though we lost." Last week, Jays Care staff ran a Play Ball clinic at James' school and were immediately captivated by the young man's incredible leadership skills. "He helped his group of students decide which drills to lead, what equipment they would need and actively delegated responsibilities. When the younger kids came out, I couldn't believe his enthusiasm and how comfortably he spoke in front of the group. At the end of each drill, he brought in the group of kids and encouraged them to think about the important life skills that they learned through baseball. This was truly exceptional to see from a child of such a young age," Jays Care Camp Coach, Josh, recounted of James. This past weekend, James' outstanding leadership skills were recognized with the opportunity take the field with the Blue Jays for the national anthem prior to the game against the Yankees. We're inspired by how baseball has provided James an outlet for his leadership skills and are thrilled to recognize him as this week's All-Star Story. Congratulations James!

Connor, Age 3

St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador

Challenger Baseball

When Connor was born, his parents weren't sure if he'd ever be able to walk. Playing baseball seemed out of reach for Connor, who was born with Pallister Hall Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder causing his hands and feet to be underdeveloped. Now at age three, Connor is thriving as the youngest player on his Challenger Baseball team in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador! Connor's mom, Danielle, believes that Challenger has played an important role in his early childhood development. "Challenger Baseball has helped him so much with his dexterity, his running and his social skills." On any given Saturday morning, Connor can be found at his local Challenger Baseball diamond, making friends with his teammates and bringing incredible energy to the field. Connor's older brother Cole is his baseball buddy, who helps him to hit the ball and run the bases when he plays. The game has become a bonding experience for the two brothers, and Danielle believes the impact of Challenger has extended far beyond the ballpark and to other areas of Connor's life. "When it came to people outside of our family, Connor was really shy. I feel that baseball helped him get over that fear and shyness. We were never sure how well Connor would walk let alone run and I found that playing baseball gave him more confidence in that aspect of his life." We're thrilled to feature Connor as this week's #AllStarStory for the energy, confidence and dedication he brings to Challenger Baseball in St. John's. Congratulations Connor!

Peter, Age 17

Rat Portage, Ontario

Rookie League

Peter believes baseball should be for everyone. For over three years, he's been involved in his community's Rookie League program through a partnership with Right To Play and Jays Care. Throughout his time in the program, Peter has developed into a standout leader in the Rat Portage community. Every week, Peter coaches a group of local youth, teaching them baseball skills and life skills. For Peter, the value of these meetings stretch far beyond simply learning to hit a fastball, "it gives these youth somewhere to go, the chance to meet new people and it teaches them respect for their teammates and coach. Every kid should have the chance to play baseball and I want to give them that opportunity." Rat Portage doesn't have a baseball diamond so the youth play in a local gym. Peter tells the youth he coaches that "if they continue to practice and stay focused, they will have the opportunity to attend the final tournament and play on an excellent diamond." Every year, a summer of Rookie League programming culminates in the annual Beyond The Ballpark tournament in partnership with the Kenora Chiefs Advisory, Right To Play and Jays Care. This tournament brings together First Nations youth from communities across Canada and Peter sees this as an incredible opportunity for the youth he coaches. For his all his work as a young leader in the Rat Portage community, we're thrilled to recognize Peter as this week's #AllStarStory. Congratulations!

Mariama, Age 23

Toronto, Ontario

Rookie League

Mariama creates magic through Rookie League. She moved to Toronto from Sierra Leone at age nine and describes her first few years in Canada as a challenging transition. At age 18, Mariama got her first job as a Rookie League Camp Coach and believes this was a pivotal moment in her life. "Working with the children of Rookie League has been one of the greatest achievements of my life." At Mariama's 400 McCowan Rookie League site in Toronto, barriers and challenges were nothing more than learning opportunities for the youth and staff. The site was not ideal for baseball as there was no nearby diamond or park. Despite this, Mariama made a park out of the very obstacles that stood in their way. The sewer drains became bases, construction fences became a makeshift Green Monster and nothing could get in the way of the kids' love of baseball. Whether it was bringing the power of baseball to the heart of Toronto Community Housing or teaching every child that they have the opportunity to be limitless, Mariama created magic through any circumstance. She truly believes that "the opportunity to go to Rookie League camp is amazing-the campers are able to learn from each other, meet new people and become involved in their community as they grow." Mariama is now pursuing her Masters in Social Work as she continues her passion of working to improve the lives of youth. We're thrilled to recognize her as this week's #AllStarStory. Congratulations!

Cullan, Age 7

Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Challenger Baseball

Cullan is not your ordinary superhero. He plays baseball every Thursday night, bringing joy, determination and endless curiosity to the diamond. When Cullan was 9 months old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and global developmental delay. Cullan, who is non-verbal, uses his eyes and his smile to tell his whole story. "When we tell him that it's Challenger Baseball night, his big brown eyes light up and his smile beams with excitement," said his mom Monique. "As we round the bases, he grins and laughs with pure elation." Last summer, Cullan and his father penned a letter to Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar sharing that the two have the same nickname. Pillar was touched by the note and met Cullan at the National Challenger Baseball Jamboree on the field at Rogers Centre. The experience of meeting a fellow superhero stuck with Cullan, and back in Nova Scotia, Cullan can often be found watching a Blue Jays game with his father Wade. "I remind him of the time that we met Kevin Pillar, and a little smirk always comes across his face," Wade said. "He knows he's our superhero." From Antigonish, Nova Scotia, to the Rogers Centre field, Cullan approaches the game of baseball with pure joy. We celebrate this joy as we feature Cullan for this week's All-Star Story. Congratulations!

John & Tyler, Age 10

Scarborough, Ontario

Rookie League

John and Tyler are twins in Jays Care's Rookie League program at the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough. When John and Tyler began Rookie League, they were afraid of striking out. They were hesitant to play baseball and nervous to try new things. Their youth coach, Brianth, describes their first few weeks in Rookie League: "The boys weren't confident in their abilities. They were scared of failing and would often sit out as opposed to participate and try to learn the sport." In the following weeks, Brianth worked hard to get the boys off the sidelines and into the game through mentorship and encouragement. From here, John and Tyler quickly took to the game of baseball, gained confidence and became active leaders in the program. "The transformation has truly been incredible. The boys went from sitting on the sidelines to mentoring and teaching younger children in the program. As coaches, they are a huge help to us and they have become outstanding leaders and role models." The boys' mother, Marylou, shared that this newfound confidence extended beyond the diamond: "I believe that because John and Tyler participated in this program, they became more confident in sport, school and life. They learned that if you try, you can succeed. They are the first to volunteer and encourage other children to try. They are more compassionate and enthusiastic since the summer, and they want to help the kids who don't know how to play or are too shy to try. They love to share the skills they learned at Rookie League." Today, we celebrate the confidence, leadership and life skills that John and Tyler developed through the game of baseball as we feature them for this week's All-Star Story. Congratulations!

Amara, Age 13

Chapleau Cree First Nation

James Bay Girls At Bat

Amara is a leader. She is a Youth Champion in Jays Care's James Bay Girls At Bat program and inspiring social change in her community. Amara is from Chapleau Cree First Nation, a tiny northern First Nation nine hours from Toronto with a population of 409. As a Youth Champion, Amara is inspiring kids in Chapleau Cree to do more by designing, promoting and leading events for youth. She hasn't always done this. She started four months ago after attending Jays Care's first James Bay Girls At Bat retreat in Timmins. The program brings together girls ages 12 to 18 from First Nations along Ontario's James Bay Coast. It builds connections, enhances leadership skills and encourages girls to step up to the plate and run community programming for their peers. Youth leading youth. "I didn't know what to expect when I got to the retreat. But it changed my life," Amara says. After a week of workshops and activities in Timmins, she was inspired and made lasting connections. "Girls At Bat is my second family, it was so hard to say goodbye. I Facetime and text every day with the girls I met. We had such a strong connection, and we still do." With her new friends and new confidence, Amara went home and got to work. She has organized four different events -- from a sports and games night to a bake-off -- and she's just getting started. Amara sees her role as a Youth Champion as something bigger than the chance to build her leadership skills. "Our youth are the next generation. They are the ones that are going to be carrying our teachings. They are going to be our next chiefs. This program taught me how to be compassionate with my programming and how to be resilient and strong. It taught me how to be there for my people." Amara is one of 65 Youth Champions along the James Bay Coast. Her local mentor, Peggy, describes her as "an amazing young lady, who has the capacity to be a great leader in the future and is an excellent role model for Chapleau Cree youth." She is an inspiring and courageous leader. For all of this and much more, Amara is this week's Jays Care All-Star Story. Congratulations, Amara!

Brady, Age 8

Hamilton, Ontario

Challenger Baseball

Brady is a baseball player. He plays every Monday. He's been playing for four years and some of his best friends are on his team. When he steps on the field, he is as committed to the game as Josh Donaldson. When he plays, Brady is focused, determined and confident. He wasn't always like that. When he was 4 years old, Brady was diagnosed with Autism. "Autistic children tend to stay to themselves and experience anxiety in unfamiliar surroundings," says Brenda, Brady's mom. When Brady first joined Challenger Baseball, he had a hard time keeping focused and on the field. Now, four years later, Brady is a central force on his team. "The transformation we have seen has been incredible. You can see Brady's confidence when he plays. He is so excited to be on the field -- to connect as part of a team. It's a bonding experience. He's elated to play on a team where he knows he belongs." Brenda remembers the first few months of Challenger, where Brady's father, Corey, needed to walk up to bat with him each time and help him find the courage and focus to hit the ball. "Now he tells us to leave him alone. He struts up to bat by himself." Challenger Baseball has built Brady's confidence. And today, we celebrate what Brady has brought to Challenger. His confidence, his team focus and his outgoing nature make Brady an obvious choice for our first Jays Care All-Star Story. Congratulations, Brady!

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