October 30 12


It’s such a simple word.

It’s such a simple activity that works its way into the lives of our children from the moment they are born. From the moment I brought each of my little ones home from the hospital, our living room floor was essentially carpeted in rattles and balls and various colorful machines that made noise or lit up—or both. We play finger games, like the itsy bitsy spider to make our children laugh, to fascinate them, to entertain them. It’s something we rarely think about, it’s just something that works its way into our lives.

The interesting thing, of course, is that when we actually think about what PLAYING really is, we discover that is much more important than a tool to make children smile. Playing teaches a child about cooperation and how to play nicely with others and the importance of taking turns. Playing teaches a child independence, and how to entertain himself. Playing is super important for cognitive development and social development and gross motor development. It teaches higher-level learning and problem solving and creativity.

According to the Canadian Council on Learning, “Play nourishes every aspect of children’s development—it forms the foundation of intellectual, social, physical, and emotional skills necessary for success in school and in life.”

Our children play.

It’s as simple as that. They play with toys. They play games. They play on playground equipment. They play on sports teams.

And we don’t really ever stop to think about how important and powerful this simple word actually is.

And we don’t really ever stop to think about the fact that there are children who cannot play. Some children do not play. They don’t have the tools, the skills, the time, or the ability to just play. And without it, they are missing out on other important learnings—the cooperation, taking turns, independence, problem solving, creativity.

I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Right To Play to help promote and spread awareness about their Level The Field program.

At the simplest level, Right To Play believes that all children, everywhere, should be able to play—it’s a basic human right. At a more sophisticated level, though, Right To Play uses the power of sport and play to build essential skills in children and to drive social change in communities affected by war, poverty, and disease. Right To Play creates a safe place for children to learn and fosters the hope that is essential for children to envision and realize a better future.

I am excited to be paired up with an athlete ambassador—Olympic gold-medalist Kyle Shewfelt—to help spread the word about what Right To Play is doing, specifically, in Benin, Africa on a project called “We Help Children Lead.” Don’t think for a second that Right To Play is about sports equipment and throwing balls around. In fact, on this particular project, they are promoting equality—they are working with children in Benin to engage girls, people with disabilities, children affected by HIV and AIDS, children on the streets, and refugees. They are working to prove that children—all children—can become leaders in their communities. They can have their own voices and they can be heard.

Right to Play We Help Children Lead

As the mother of three children, including two young girls, this project has really hit home for me. I want my two girls (and my boy!) to believe that they can do whatever they want to do.

Right to Play We Help Children Lead

Right to Play We Help Children Lead

I urge you to click over to the Right To Play Facebook page to learn more about my particular program—”We Help Children Lead” in Benin—and about the programs of the five other Canadian parents and athelete ambassadors. Once you are there, you will have the opportunity to (please, please) vote for the program that you feel most passionately about**; the one that you would want the opportunity to visit and actually see in action (Yes! You! In Africa!). While I hope you’ll choose my program, I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from voting for any of the other programs too, since we are all working toward the same cause: to highlight the amazing work that Right To Play does all over the world; whether it be healthcare, gender equality, education, or conflict resolution.




This campaign was made possible through funding received from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

The Level The Field campaign focuses on countries in the WAFA region (Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Rwanda and Mali) and raises awareness about the work Right To Play does in their communities.

**Some people have had a hard time with the actual voting process, so I thought I’d let you know HOW to do it.

If you click here, it should take you to the Facebook page.

If you scroll down, you should see the six blogger/athlete teams. Mine is called “We help children lead.”

If you click the red button that says “vote now” your vote will be entered.


  1. This is so great, Ali! Love the concept of this program and am going to go check it out right now.

    Comment by Sharon on October 30, 2012
  2. Congratulations of being a part of a great campaign Ali.

    Comment by Kat on October 30, 2012
  3. Thank you! I’m over-the-moon excited to talk about something I really think is awesome, yanno?

    Comment by ali on October 30, 2012
  4. What an amazing campaign!

    Comment by Kristabella on October 30, 2012
  5. Amazing campaign. I love that you’re a part of it.

    I voted! Good luck!

    Comment by Meghan on October 30, 2012
  6. Fantastic program and I will go and vote for sure.

    I have to tell you I played your video 5 times it was so cute! Isabella?

    Comment by Sarah on October 30, 2012
  7. This is amazing and so are you!

    Comment by Heather on October 30, 2012
  8. Hey buddy! Great post. You + Me = Most Votes? Excited to be partnered with you 😉

    Comment by Kyle Shewfelt on October 30, 2012
  9. Best. comment. Ever.

    We got this.

    Comment by ali on October 30, 2012
  10. Amazing! Voting right now!

    Comment by Loukia on November 1, 2012
  11. […] with my absolutely wonderful partner Kyle Shewfelt, you may already know that I am working on a particular project in Right To Play’s Level The Field program and it is called We Help Children […]

    Pingback by Right to Play Help Level The Field in Africa | Cheaper Than Therapy on November 12, 2012
  12. […] Right To Play is doing in West Africa because it’s really, truly incredible. I wrote about it here. And here. And yes! I’d love to be the one of the six parent ambassadors who wins the trip […]

    Pingback by On Voting, Being Concussed, and Being Twilight Surprised - Cheaper Than Therapy | Cheaper Than Therapy on November 16, 2012
  13. […] recently while at the Zareinu fashion show last week and I had one several weeks ago, just after I had signed up to participate as a parent ambassador in Right To Play’s Level The Field Program. We were on a conference call, learning a little about […]

    Pingback by Kyle Shewfelt: It's Sport For Development, Not Just Sport For Sport | Cheaper Than Therapy on November 28, 2012

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