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Breaking Barriers on the Court: Guelph-Humber's Inspiring Visit to Camp 905

Nikki Martyn speaks to kids sitting around in a circle in the middle of an indoor basketball court

It was a Tuesday morning at an indoor basketball facility in Brampton where Guelph-Humber Early Childhood Studies Program Head, Nikki Martyn, found herself getting ready to speak to a group of kids attending Camp 905.

Competing against scrimmages and three-point shots, Nikki admitted she was feeling nervous about capturing and keeping the kids’ attention, especially with such a large group of 65 children ranging in age from seven to sixteen. But she was, after all, visiting the camp to talk about vulnerability, facing fears, resilience, and what makes us happy.

High-tops squeaked on the court floor as the group assembled to sit in a circle where they’d just finished a set of drills. Hearts still pounding and sweat still dripping, the group quieted to hear what Nikki had to say - despite the nearby basketballs just waiting to be dribbled.

For the better part of an hour, Nikki’s own vulnerability created a safe space for this eclectic group of kids, allowing them to open up in a way they probably weren’t expecting to on the basketball court.

“Talking about the hard stuff takes vulnerability, and it takes strength,” Nikki told them. “Thank you for letting me see the world from your perspective for a minute.”

Thanks to an exciting partnership between the University of Guelph-Humber and the Mississauga-based Raptors 905 organization, Nikki and several other Guelph-Humber staff and students visited Camp 905 last month bringing a variety of interactive activities to campers. In fact, 10 of those kids enjoyed a week of camp thanks to the support of the University.

Margaret Ojukwu, mom to one of the sponsored campers from the local community said her 14-year-old son Ugo jumped at the chance to play basketball every day for a week and was up and ready to go before she was each morning before camp.

 “When I was told about this opportunity [through Guelph-Humber] I said this is absolutely something he has to do,” she said. “And [at the camp], he was in a place he wants to be.”

Ojukwu said she was thrilled to hear that important discussions like Nikki’s were added into the camp programming. 

“These kids are dealing with a lot [in their lives], so a sports program that incorporates any degree of mental wellness is great,” she said. “I hope Ugo can be involved in more things like this in the future.”

Ugo was one of a few older kids in the group who Nikki thanked for being role models to the younger crowd by participating in the discussion. 

“Why do you think your childhood is so important?”, she asked at one point.

“So you can play and enjoy life before you have to start paying taxes,” one kid offered, garnering a chuckle from Nikki and the other adults in the room. 

“Yes, part of childhood is about preparing,” Nikki explained, “but the playing doesn’t have to stop when you grow up.”