Long race of kindness

Belarusian athletes take part in Give Children a Hand charity campaign, hosted by Minsk’s McDonald’s — a sponsor of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus

By Irina Leshkevich

Olympic champions and prize holders from various years took part in the fund raising event: Igor Astapkovich, Irina Yatchenko, Tatiana Ledovskaya, Vasily Kaptyukh, Natalia Sazanovich and Inna Zhukova. They were joined by the rhythmic gymnastic team, which claimed bronze at the Beijing-2008 Olympic Games.

Inna Zhukova, who won silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing for rhythmic gymnastics, was taking part in the traditional McDonald’s event for the first time. “Jointly with the serving staff, we chatted to customers while selling fries and ‘Helping Hand’ charms. We explained how the funds will be spent. It’s great to be part of this; I’m glad that such events are organised in our country. Unfortunately, I have only now realised that it had been taking place for several years. However, I hope to take part for years to come now. I endeavour to support charities, regularly participating in the Athletes to Children campaign. Sadly, I can’t do this all the time, because of my tough schedule, but I have some free time at the moment. This is giving me more opportunities to be involved in charity work,” notes Ms. Zhukova.

All the funds generated from the sale of ‘Helping Hand’ charms and fries are being spent on equipping centres for diagnostics and rehabilitation of physical and psychomotor disorders for children under the age of three, at Minsk’s children’s polyclinics. The latter opened as a result of fundraising from the McHappy Day in 2009. Such centres help support parents of disabled children, assisting in their adaptation to difficult situations. They provide advice on how to work with these children at home.

“I very much want to help these children, although it’s the first time I’m taking part in this charity event. It’s a very unusual feeling. Our team was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation,” notes Alina Tumilovich, who won bronze with the Belarusian national rhythmic gymnastic squad for team exercises at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The McHappy Day event has been held in Belarus since 2002 and many outstanding Belarusian athletes have taken part since its launch. “We’re old-timers here. It’s wonderful that athletes are invited and we have the chance to support children,” stresses Tatiana Ledovskaya, 1988 Seoul Olympic champion in the 4x400m relay.

McDonald’s customers were able to have their photo taken with the athletes and ask for autographs. The Olympic champions also signed a banner at the restaurant, wishing children good health and happy smiles.

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