Haitian Earthquake Victims Cheer On The Dream At Season Opener

Members of the group from Haiti pose for a photo Saturday in Philips Arena.

By Lauren Mayo

Last Saturday night, the Atlanta Dream welcomed 12 Haitian children with varying physical disabilities as well as six leaders that were affected by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the season opener against the Tulsa Shock. The traveling youth consists of eight boys and four girls, with ages ranging from 11 to 19 years old.

The group was hosted by BlazeSports America and has come to participate in the annual BlazeCamp in Warm Springs, Ga., as part of the Department of State – Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs – Sport Diplomacy program.

“The organization has allowed me to be a part of things that I never knew would happen in my life,” one of the children said. “For example, some of us here, we didn’t know if we would ever travel and see other countries, and right now we are here and we are watching a basketball game with our own eyes. We never knew we would be able to do that, because all those things, we only saw them on television. The organization has allowed us to be a part of that, and has given us the real experience where we can be a part of something.”

BlazeSports America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, headquartered in Atlanta, that empowers children and adults with physical disabilities worldwide through sport. Formed in 1993, as the direct legacy of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Paralympic Games, BlazeSports programs and services encourage lifelong health, build leadership skills, foster independence and inclusion, and promote personal empowerment.

“People with disabilities are not really integrated in society,” a group leader said. “BlazeSports America is helping to integrate the children with disabilities into the overall society and they are really grateful they are a part of this program.”

BlazeSports has worked in Haiti for the past two and a half years, and has established strong relationships with in-country partners that will ensure continued successful, sustainable, and well-coordinated project activities. These efforts have engaged more than 1,200 young people in sport, trained nearly 200 sport, recreation, and physical education providers, and strengthened 41 disability and sport organizations. Haitian partners and disability leaders recognize the value of this project in addressing alienation and discrimination of people with disabilities while, at the same time, empowering people with disabilities, their families, and allies.

Along with the Atlanta Dream game, the children planned to visit a host of Atlanta’s attractions including the Georgia Aquarium, Stone Mountain Park and Centennial Olympic Park.