Sports Day so much more for OBK

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A member of the Sheriffs Branch prepares for the jump ball during basketball action at the Calgary Islamic School OBK campus Sports Day.

CALGARY – The event is officially known as Sports Day, but in reality it’s a celebration of so much more for the staff, students and friends of Calgary Islamic School  Omar Bin Al-Khattab campus.

The fifth annual Sports Day, held recently at Calgary Rotary Challenger Park, brought almost 500 students together for a variety of track and field-themed games, and other assorted activities.

The day also featured a motivational speaker, a hot lunch served by the school council, and a visit from community partners including Calgary police and firefighters, as well as the Alberta Sheriffs Branch.

“Sports day is not only an end-of-year celebration, but also part of some school initiatives around being healthy and active,” says teacher and event organizer, Nicholas Irving.

The year-end celebration is typically held in the last few weeks of school but was moved up this year, he says, so it wouldn’t conflict with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“At this time our students celebrate their connection and devotion to their faith by fasting and prayer. This is a very important time, but can also be a challenge as many students fast all day,” says Irving.

Sports Day is also an opportunity for OBK’s community partners to interact and have fun with the students and staff in a less formal way.  Both police officers and firefighters visit the school at various times through the year, to help with emergency drills and talk about safety issues.

While they brought their emergency vehicles to the park so students could get an up close and personal look at them, those front-line personnel also joined them on the basketball court and running track to further strengthen their relationships.

Irving also praised school council members for providing ongoing support for the school, and the hot lunch in particular on Sports Day. A number of parents also volunteered their time to help with the various activities going on around Challenger Park.

He notes it’s important to recognize the contributions of the entire school community because the education of OBK students involves more than just the teaching staff.

“To be successful, we all have to work together and they are part of our school family,” says Irving. “We are a community that supports our students and including everyone in our event keeps our relationship strong, and helps us build on it for the future.”

Guest speaker Martin Parnell opened the event. He launched his “Quest for Kids” initiative in 2010 and has since run 250 marathons in one year, set five Guinness World Records and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 21 hours.

In the process Parnell has raised more than $1.3 million for Right to Play program. The humanitarian organization uses the power of play to educate and empower children around the world facing adversity.

“The message I hope the kids came away with is that they can make a difference,” says Parnell. “I know sometimes they think they are just children but as an individual, as a family or as a school, they can make a difference.”

Parnell has travelled the world and says the children he meets have much more in common than they are different.

“Kids are kids and they just want to have fun. They’re so creative and have such great ideas. As adults, we’re the ones who have to step out of way and let them fly,” he says.