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ND supports Playing for Peace

Mel Flanagan | Thursday, October 13, 2011

This year’s Playing for Peace tagline, “Playing for Peace: From South Bend to South Sudan,” emphasizes the social justice initiative’s goal of bringing piece to both foreign countries and Notre Dame’s own community.


Playing for Peace, which began as a 3-on-3 basketball tournament last December to promote peacekeeping in Sudan, has grown into an international program that utilizes a variety of sports to unite people within their communities.


Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs for the athletic department, said this year’s tagline reminds Notre Dame of the need for unity building efforts not only abroad, but also in its own backyard.


“While the initiative has international roots, we’re trying to make sure we don’t leave out the need to develop and strengthen our local community, and to use the platform of sports to accomplish that,” he said.


Dugan traveled to South Sudan for two weeks this past summer to hold a Playing for Peace basketball tournament and clinic for Sudanese youth.


The program also made history by holding the first ever women’s clinic and tournament in South Sudan.


On campus, Playing for Peace efforts in the community have already begun, student government social concerns chair Ellen Carroll said.


Prior to the football game against Air Force, several basketball players officiated a 3-on-3 basketball tournament for South Bend youth at Irish Green.


“We were working with the Martin Luther King Center in South Bend,” Carroll said. “The goal was to bring kids from the community to campus and let them see Notre Dame and further the connection between us.”


On Nov. 5, Playing for Peace will hold its first soccer tournament at Riehle Fields. The proceeds from the tournament will be donated to United Way in South Bend.


“That tournament will be a mix of students and community members,” Carroll said. “The goal is for it to be a mini-World Cup.”


In the weeks leading up to the soccer tournament, Carroll said the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) will plan related academic events in order to unite all facets of Notre Dame, from academic to athletic to service.


Student body president Pat McCormick said connecting these characteristics is an important part of the Playing for Peace message, that Notre Dame is a place where nontraditional allies can come together and accomplish amazing feats.


“This is a way student government has worked on behalf of students and with them, to reach out and unite other organizations within the University,” he said. “Whether it be athletics or the CSC, we’re working in partnership with them to advance the mission of Notre Dame.”


The men’s basketball team will sponsor a Playing for Peace 3-on-3 basketball tournament right before its first home game of the regular season Nov. 12.


This tournament will be similar to the initial Playing for Peace basketball event held last year, Carroll said.


Irish coach Mike Brey said he is excited to be involved with another tournament after last year’s positive experience.


“It was during our basketball season so it was refreshing to get away from the grind of practicing and playing and to do something that has such a positive effect,” Brey said.


The event will feature performances and a speech from Mike Hebbeler, director of Student Leadership and Senior Transitions for the CSC, and the proceeds will be donated to Catholic Relief Services.


“These events all fit in with this year’s [slogan] ‘From South Bend to South Sudan,'” Carroll said. “Youth basketball was a South Bend focus, soccer is both and basketball is more geared toward students and raising money for South Sudan.”


Dugan said there will be a second basketball tournament in the spring that will focus more on community outreach.


“The spring one will take place actually in the community, at the Martin Luther King Center in South Bend,” he said. “We’re going to take Playing for Peace off campus and run it on the west side of South Bend.”


The initiative holds high hopes for international events as well. Dugan said the Sudanese have already expressed interest in expanding the tournament in Sudan.


“They want to grow it to all different states in South Sudan, and they want to invite the basketball team from North Sudan,” he said. “It would be a truly beautiful thing, South Sudan hosting North Sudan in next summer’s Playing for Peace tournament.”


McCormick said Notre Dame has been a University that has stood up for justice in the past, and Playing for Peace is a great forum to continue that in the future.


“Notre Dame was a place where we spoke out for civil rights and now it is going to be a place where we speak out for human rights,” he said. “Students have hopes that go beyond the rote issues of convenience here.”


Dugan said his position directing youth and community programs enables him to concentrate more on the development of Playing for Peace.


“I’m in a position to help grow the initiative,” he said. “We’ve been able to roll out a few successful events and we really feel the initiative can take on a whole new momentum.”


South Bend children will participate in spreading the word about Playing for Peace to the area through booths set up at every home basketball game.


“Catholic social teaching tells us peace is not just about a lack of conflict, it’s about justice and respect of human dignity,” Dugan said. “We feel like Playing for Peace is very applicable to parts of the South Bend community that need a little more justice, peace and harmony.”