Mac athletes score big in off-field efforts

It’s no small thing to chase your dreams and McMaster’s Department of Athletics and Recreation tries to help its varsity athletes as they pursue their dreams of competitive success. But there are some Mac athletes who try to help make the dreams of others come true.

Dreams@Mac is a student club that grew out of an initiative which started at Hamilton’s St. Mary High School in 1999. Twice a year, McMaster students travel to the Dominican Republic to assist in the building of a new house in an impoverished area. While not an athlete-driven programme, Dreams@Mac has seen some Marauder competitors sign up with support from McMaster Athletics.

The most recent foray was from April 27 to May 9 this year and took 16 McMaster students to the Dominican village of Cruz de Santana. Included in the delegation were McMaster’s Mikaila Nederveen (squash), and Marauder alumni Josh Nederveen (volleyball) and Brett Barrowclough (baseball). Their mission was to build a house for an elder couple whose home had been swept off a mountainside during monsoon season.

Having just completed her first season as a member of the varsity squash team, Mikaila Nederveen called the trip to the Dominican Republic a life-changing experience,

“We are so fortunate to be able to pursue both our athletic and academic goals at McMaster. The experiences of helping the residents of Cruz de Santana achieve their goals of proper shelter, clothes, and a good education program was incredibly impactful and uplifting.”

In addition to the home building efforts, the McMaster students spend time interacting with the local culture, and to assist those efforts the Department of Athletics and Recreation provided a donation of sports equipment and apparel that was distributed among the locals. Even at a basic level, the purity of playing together is something that can be shared between gaps in culture and language and helped the McMaster ambassadors bond with the natives.

“I can’t describe to you what it feels like to see a group of impoverished children playing baseball, volleyball, or soccer in maroon t-shirts and with donated equipment.” explains Nederveen.

“It is an incredible feeling to know that a McMaster legacy will be in the region of San Jose de Ocoa long after we have left, in both the donations we leave and the houses we help build. The support we received from the Athletic Department and Jeff Giles is something that makes me incredibly proud to be a McMaster student and a Marauder. It’s an inspiring thing to be given the opportunity to help others, but it brings me great pride to represent my school colours in such an important undertaking.”

Dreams@Mac intends to continue its efforts in the coming year with two more excursions to the Dominican Republic planned for Reading Week in February and after final exams in late April or early May. Information for those interested to get involved will be available at Clubsfest during Welcome Week, or on the club’s Facebook page.