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KW Minor Lacrosse

500 Parkside Dr. Waterloo, ON N2L 5J4 (519) 884-4641

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Saving the world, one lacrosse stick at a time

01/16/2017, 7:00pm EST
By Waterloo Region Record By Christine Rivet

WATERLOO — Those who've played lacrosse will tell you they have a moral obligation to share the Creator's game with others.

With that philosophy in mind, Waterloo's Tom Bileski has, for nearly three years, rallied his friends and associates together to support the game's development half a world away.

Bileski, the general manager and assistant coach of the men's field lacrosse team at Wilfrid Laurier University, has cobbled together stacks of equipment to send to young players in Uganda.

His hope is that Canada's other official sport might take root there, too.

"My wife (Karin) says we are saving the world one lacrosse stick at a time," Bileski said with a laugh.

In early March, Bileski plans to witness his work in action when he travels to the Ugandan village of Kyengera to witness a friendly field lacrosse game between a touring native dance troupe, the Brantford-based White Pine Dancers, and members of the Ugandan national lacrosse team.

The game is to be featured in the upcoming documentary, "Two Drums, Many Dreamers."

The MetaMedia film will endeavour to tell the story of the collaboration between indigenous peoples from two different continents as they share music, drumming, dance, traditional storytelling and, now, lacrosse.

The documentary is expected to be screened in Waterloo Region in September.

That the native Canadian dancers can share another of their passions — the game of lacrosse — with the Ugandans is something that took Bileski by surprise.

His name came to the attention of the film's producer, Paul Francescutti of Waterloo, who had been asked by volunteers to cart over a bag full of lacrosse gear on a past trip to Uganda.

"Tom was the perfect guy to make this (lacrosse game) happen," said Francescutti, a former lacrosse player himself.

"The audience will see (that) the drumming, the dancing and the (storytelling) is similar with both cultures. Now, we've added lacrosse — which is such an integral part of First Nations culture — into the mix."

"It's another bridge-builder between the cultures. It's about the opportunity to share in a game that's more than a game," said Bileski, the director of recruitment for Kitchener's new private school for elite hockey players, Victus Academy.

Uganda's involvement with lacrosse dates back to 2012, when American coach Kevin Dugan introduced the game to Africa.

Canada's history is far richer. Although lacrosse is thought to have been developed by indigenous people in North America around the year 1100, the game celebrates its 150th anniversary in this country this summer.

"How better to celebrate the anniversary of lacrosse than to have (the people) the gift came from playing the sport in another country?" wondered Bileski, who first befriended members of Uganda's fledgling national team at the world field lacrosse championships in Denver in 2014.

Ever since, groups of local volunteers like Francescutti have carried the lacrosse equipment that Bileski has helped to collect to Uganda.

"And so, a seed was planted then and it is slowly starting to take hold."

Although the sport is still in its infancy in Uganda, those few players are now reaching out to neighbouring Kenya and Rwanda in an attempt to build lacrosse there.

Bileski said his hope is to organize service trips to Uganda for volunteers from Waterloo Region who can teach lacrosse and build friendships there.

"The Ugandans are really taking to the game. They are very athletic and very respectful players. It seems a natural fit so far."

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