Fighting for change

By Mike Baker

The kids, they did alright.

OK, maybe they did better than just alright.

When word first got out a few months ago that a collection of elementary school students had banded together to ask why a pair of hugely successful athletes had not and were not being recognized for their accomplishments and celebrated in their hometown, it piqued the interest of many within our community.

I remember discussing the issue for the first time with reporter Darren Lum, who broke the story in March. This group of Grade 7/8 students from J.D. Hodgson, under the tutelage of teacher Marina Thomazo, conducted their own research, formed a valid, multi-faceted argument and then sent a letter to Dysart mayor Andrea Roberts seeking answers to some very pertinent questions.

They left no stone unturned in their attempts to raise awareness about the careers of Lesley Tashlin and Taly Williams.

Tashlin was a bonafide world-class track and field star during the 1990s, representing Canada at six major international competitions, including the 1996 Summer Olympics. Williams played a few seasons in the Canadian Football League, representing both the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, making him Haliburton’s first professional footballer.

And yet, despite these lofty accomplishments, you’d be hard pressed to find anything in Haliburton that acknowledges the pair.

That is about to change. As reported on the front page of this week’s Echo, Dysart council has agreed to emblazon Tashlin and Williams’ likeness on the Haliburton wall of fame at A.J. LaRue Arena. The siblings will join the likes of Bernie Nicholls, Ron Stackhouse, Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene and Mike Bradley in being immortalized as murals.

It’s pretty incredible that all of this came about due to the hard work of a classroom of young teenagers. The youth of today, generally speaking, get a bad rap for lacking drive and vision. They’re accused of having things handed to them on a silver platter, spending too much time on video games or sitting in front of a television screen, and caring about little else than their favourite celebrity’s recent Twitter or Instagram post.

Clearly, Thomazo’s Grade 7/8 class are made of different stuff. They broke the mould. Collectively, they did a phenomenal job of not only bringing the community’s attention to a pair of undervalued athletes, but of inspiring real change. Because of their work, future generations will be able to look to the Haliburton wall of fame and draw inspiration from the stories of not five, but seven inspirational people.

It’s important to note just how positive a step this is for the community. Tashlin and Williams both represent minorities – the pair of them being Black athletes, and Tashlin a woman. For a community that is growing, both culturally and in terms of population numbers, it’s vital that we recognize all of our major success stories. That we send the message that we support and respect those that flew the Haliburton banner on the grandest stage.

Kudos again to the Grade 7/8 class who fought for change, and to all those that assisted along the way.