Hamilton Tiger-Cats' defensive back Ryan Hinds has long tried to help kids, especially those in Guyana. Hinds was born in the South American country and went back there earlier this year to officially open a neonatal intensive care unit and collect information for future fundraising initiatives. Now, Hinds is hosting the Touch-A-Tractor event at Hamilton's Robar Centre September 30, which will give local kids a chance to experience heavy machinery such as bulldozers, backhoes and excavators and raise money to help kids in South America, as the proceeds will be going to Guyana Help The Kids and their mission of improving pediatric care in the country. Hinds told me earlier this month a project like this that would help kids in Canada and abroad was a natural fit for him.
"I've always been a big fan of kids," he said. "I'm like a little kid myself."
Hinds said getting to experience machinery like this up close will be a unique, fun event for many kids and even their parents.
"Most kids have little toy trucks or tractors," he said. "This will be cool for a kid of any age."
Although the event, which will also feature appearances from other Tiger-Cats, race-car driver Ashley McCalmont, the Tiger-Cats' cheerleaders and more, should be a lot of fun, there's an extremely serious purpose behind the fundraising. Kids' healthcare in Guyana is in rough shape, as the country only has two pediatricians for its population of 750,000, and they both work in the private sector. As of the time of his trip earlier this year, the country was also ranked 130th in the world in infant mortality. Hinds said his Guyanese background has provided him with extra motivation to help people in Guyana, and he sees Guyana Help The Kids' mission of starting by improving healthcare for children as a great approach given the issues there.
"This charity targets kids because the pediatric sector in Guyana is 30 years behind North America," Hinds said. "Kids are one of the most vulnerable brackets of healthcare. That's not right."
Hinds said his trip to Guyana really drove home the issues at play and encouraged him to come back and raise more money for GHTK.
"The situation down there in Guyana for pediatrics is very grim," he said. "Going back to Guyana was surreal for me. I hadn't been back in 18 years. You notice all the deficiencies and the downfalls that are there."
Hinds said progress is being made, though, and the neonatal intensive care unit he helped officially open has already made a huge difference.
"They've lowered the infant mortality rate by, I think, 50 per cent," he said.
He said some advanced machines have already been brought in there, and are making a major impact, while the charity's working to get more equipment to Guyana.
"To provide the staff with machinery that can help them take better care of the kids is a huge blessing," he said. "It's really crucial to saving lives, and that's our goal."
Hinds said the local community in Hamilton has really rallied behind the cause, leading to programs such as the Touch-A-Tractor event. He thanked sponsors Imagine PR, M&M Meats and Cable 14 in particular, saying they and other companies have done a huge amount to boost the cause.
"People are donating their time and effort and making this much bigger."