"I have learned a ton about leadership, the culture of London, and everything in between. I feel coming home I will be completely different, equipped with more leadership skills and the wisdom gained from this trip."
Acknowledging the long-term impact of those words is the ultimate reward of GSD's Playmakers Program. This teen is just one of 50 youth from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom who spent five action-packed days in London, taking part in the 2012 Olympics through our Playmakers Program.
Several organizations were involved, including Youth Unlimited (Canada), S.O.S. Outreach (United States), LEAP (London Education and Arts Programme), and London Sports Trust. While these groups may have different models of youth outreach, the goals of each organization share a similar theme - to improve the lives of youth by providing them with opportunities to learn more about themselves while developing new, positive skills. This is closely aligned with the objective of the Playmakers Program, which is to inspire and guide youth to be leaders in their own lives and communities.
Despite being a part of different organizations back home, the youth quickly came together as one unit in London. Participating in fun events, such as field day mini-games designed by the program's mentors, traveling together, and visiting historic sites, the teens established life-long friendships and bonded over this special opportunity. Additionally, the Playmakers group were spectators at various Olympic events, including badminton, gymnastics, cycling, and volleyball.
A highlight of the Playmakers Program was having Bob Beamon, winner of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics gold medal, take the time to share his motivational life story with the Playmakers. Mr. Beamon currently holds the Olympic record for the long jump, 44 years after competing in the Olympics! While speaking to the youth, Mr. Beamon emphasized that his accomplishments not only took hard work and dedication, but were made while overcoming challenging obstacles. He grew up in a dysfunctional family, and several times throughout his youth he was confronted with difficult choices. His tale of overcoming these hardships and his determination to succeed was quite remarkable. His story resounded with the youth, many of whom are facing their own life struggles. In thank-you letters to Mr. Beamon, GSD's Playmaker youth wrote:
"You've had a tougher life than I, but you were able to change paths, and if you can do it then so I can I. Today I shall be a better person than I was yesterday."
"Some people have no idea the kind of stuff other people go through to get where they are today. Hearing you're story gives me hope that good, hard-working, honest, persevering people are still out there."
GSD is honored to have had the opportunity to connect youth from different backgrounds, cultures, and locations, and provide them with the opportunity to experience the Olympic movement. Our hope was that the 2012 Playmaker Program would reaffirm in the youth the belief that anything is possible. We wanted all Playmaker participants to return home inspired to pursue new goals and achievements while grasping the importance of courage and ethics. The moving artwork and letters sent to us by the Playmaker youth validate that our goals have been achieved.