Some young Calgary students went head-to-head with the pros at a charity basketball game on Saturday, all while raising money for the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation (ACHF).
The All Stars Charity Basketball Game, held at the Prolific Sports House in southeast Calgary, was organized by two local high school students: Jayda Bharmal and Bianca Jiwa.
Jiwa, a student at Henry Wise Wood High School, said she and Bharmal organized the event to raise awareness about mental health and plan to donate to the Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health — a new space under construction for youth in Calgary that will offer walk-in mental health services. The centre is a partnership between ACHF and Alberta Health Services.
"I personally have had people who have been affected by mental health and I've really seen the effects that it has on people [with] both their physical health and how they think, how they act," Jiwa said.
"I just think it's a really great cause to support."
Bharmal and Jiwa aimed to raise $10,000 at the event, which they achieved through donations and local sponsorships.
'Giving back to Calgary'
The main event of the charity basketball game was a match between a U13 girl's team of local students and professional sports players.
Bharmal, who attends Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School, said she wanted to give young girls the rare opportunity to play against professionals.
"We just thought that girls getting to play against people they wouldn't normally get to would be exciting for them, empower them," she said.
One of the pros at Saturday's game was Nik Lewis, who played slotback for the Calgary Stampeders from 2004 to 2014. For Lewis, coming back to the city and attending community events like Saturday's is important.
"I just love giving back to Calgary…. [It] has a special place in my heart," Lewis said.
Lewis also said it's crucial after years of the COVID-19 pandemic to support children's mental wellbeing.
"Mental health is so important these days, and we want to make sure that [kids] stay strong and know that they're important."
As for the game, the girls put up a tough fight but ultimately lost 62-54 to the all-star team. However, the girls did put Lewis to the test.
"I'm nowhere near in shape to do this, but I'm glad I didn't die out there," he said.
Jiwa said she hopes Saturday's All Stars game will become an annual event.