This year, was my first year attending the annual UDodge tournament hosted by United Way and Edmonton Police Services. It took place at the Edmonton Expo Centre. The space rental, generously sponsored by Northlands, in Hall D, was a large and cavernous room big enough to host over 100 attendees and spectators in the most attended UDodge tournament to-date.
When I arrived, I walked into a high energy dodgeball competition of youth and adults throwing red foam balls at each other – while other kids and adults gathered around watching from the sidelines, benches and bleachers or waiting for their next turn to play. Two games played simultaneous, every five minutes in non-stop action. I saw a lot of smiles and heard a lot of laughter. There was some serious fun happening there!
Eleven teams competed to see who could out-dodge the other. Teams consist of four youth (from community agencies), four corporate participants (from community businesses), one Police Officer (EPS), one Northlands employee, and one United Way staff member as a team leader.
The teams join people who wouldn’t normally interact in this way. In a conversation with Sergeant Michelle Horchuk, with Edmonton Police Services, and co-organizer of the tournament, she told me the spirit of the event is to connect people who don’t usually have anything in common, and connect them with the one thing they do have in common and that’s ‘play’. The commonality of play brings camaraderie. Once the participants learn they can have fun and be on a team together, then they realize there are other things they have in common.
In the world outside the dodgeball game, we need to work together. The games seem to improve the relationship between the youth participants and EPS, in particular. For some kids, police officers are unapproachable and intimidating, so this is the perfect chance for kids to gain a level of comfort with them.
UDodge is a memorable event for many of the participants and they come back the following year with enthusiasm to play again. Players get to know each other and they remember each other which builds connections on and off the dodgeball court. One teenage boy, a returning player, told me he likes the bonding and the teamwork that comes from playing together - Skills from a game that he takes with him in life.
The names of the teams speak volumes of what the tournament is really about. Names like Action, Community, Change, Purpose, Effort and Possibility, are just a few. To mobilize collective action to move people out of poverty we really need to believe in all those things. It takes a lot of teamwork, a lot positive energy and a lot of people coming together dodging through life to make a difference. UDodge creates a game where everybody wins!
You can view of Facebook page for more photos of the UDodge Tournament.