55 Yard Line - CFL

If your regular job was full of tough practices, jarring hits and debilitating injuries, you might want to just lie around in a hot tub on your days off. That's not what eight CFL players are doing this offseason, though. Kelly Bates, Graeme Bell and Aaron Fiacconi of the Eskimos, Ray Fontaine of the Alouettes, Obed Cetoute of the Roughriders, Jason Jimenez (pictured at right raising the 2006 Grey Cup with B.C.) of the Tiger-Cats and Yvenson Bernard and Chris Cvetkovic of the Blue Bombers will be spending 10 days in Haiti this January around the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the country last year.

The project, called Huddle for Haiti, will see players working with several organizations involved in cleanup and reconstruction efforts, including Oxfam Canada. They'll be joined by NewsTalk 650's Tammy Robert, Regina Leader-Post sports editor Rob Vanstone and WestJet PR director Robert Palmer. WestJet is flying the team over as part of their ongoing efforts to aid the reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

This seems like a solid idea. Even a year after the earthquake, Haiti's still in terrible shape, but a lot of the media coverage of the rebuilding efforts has dropped off thanks to the news cycle. Fontaine, Cetoute and Bernard all have personal connections to the country, and Bernard spent six weeks there last year after the earthquake struck. He still has family in Haiti, and the team's going to be staying with them during the trip. They're going to be involved in a wide variety of rebuilding projects, including clearing rubble and developing sport programs for Haitian youth. What they do on the ground is going to be important, but their presence alone should help draw some attention to the need for continued support for reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

Bates, Jimenez and Cvetkovic have sent in blog entries to NewsTalk 650 about what they're hoping to accomplish, and they're a pretty cool read. Jimenez's piece in particular is notable; he's taken some heat over the years for his play on the field and his interactions with players and media off it, but this demonstrates a different side of him. Here's the key part of what he had to say:

The project's objective really hits home for me. Growing up surrounded by Haitian asylum seekers in Florida, I was exposed to the troubles and disheartening realities that most Haitians left behind in search of a new lease on life. Once considered the ‘jewel of the Caribbean,' Haiti has had to contend with its fair share of strife, grief, shoddy infrastructure, and political unrest. And this was before the earthquake. It was agonizing to watch the aftermath of the earthquake unfold, which led to questions of how I could help.

I'm no miracle worker and I'm not taking this project on with any presumptions that we'll make a profound impact on the plight of distressed and displaced Haitians, but I have to think that our efforts and intentions will have an impact somewhere. I look around at everything we are fortunate to have and can't fathom that there are people essentially in my backyard with very little to begin with, have it taken away from them in one fell swoop.

That's one of the cool things about the CFL; it's full of unique characters, but also a lot of people who truly care about making a difference in this world. Amongst many other things, this year has seen Adriano Belli donate his pay to Toronto's The Hospital For Sick Children, Marwan Hage delivering Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas presents to those in need, the Argonauts revitalizing local high schools' football programs, Troy Westwood trying to raise money for the Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters, Jay Roberts donating his brain and spinal cord for concussion research and Tony Proudfoot candidly writing about his battle with ALS to bring attention to the fight against the disease. Huddle for Haiti looks like another example of the great things the CFL's players are doing, and that's terrific to see.

For more information on the Huddle For Haiti project, check out their Facebook page.

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