Maccabi Canada has begun its search for coaches, medical staff and chaperones to accompany athletes to the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
The organization has sent out hundreds of e-mails informing supporters of the move and is using its website to recruit personnel.
The step is just part of a massive shift as the organization prepares for the upcoming Games, said Maccabi Canada president Tom Bacher. At the 2009 Games, the Canadian team consisted of more than 400 athletes and another 80 coaches and support staff.
With that kind of presence, fund-raising becomes a priority and efforts have already begun to raise the millions needed. Each athlete in 2009 was asked to raise $7,500, and the costs in 2013 will no doubt be even greater.
While the heavy lifting has yet to begin, Maccabi Canada raised $50,000 at a “sports challenge” on Oct. 2. Eighty young athletes gathered at Camp Robin Hood to play baseball, softball, beach volleyball, touch football, four-on-four basketball and soccer.
Maccabi Canada’s major fundraiser is planned for March 5, 2012, when hundreds are expected to attend a sports media dinner.
In addition to the cost of sending hundreds of athletes to the Games, Maccabi Canada is budgeting to incur an additional $500,000 cost in 2013. That will result from a pre-camp in Israel that will see the Canadian team spend five days training, touring and performing volunteer work.
In addition to building team camaraderie, the pre-camp is important to allow athletes to visit the country in a way they can’t when focused strictly on athletic competition, Bacher said.
It’s part of his philosophy of creating attachment to the State of Israel, fostering friendships and strengthening participants’ Jewish identity, Bacher said.
One way of fostering that identity is to create a local Jewish sports system that will attract young people from an early age, he said. Worldwide, communities are organized around Maccabi sports clubs, but that’s the kind of organizational structure Batcher can only dream of – at least at the moment.
Batcher has set an ambitious goal of broadening the presence of the Maccabi movement in Canada, to make it the place to send your kids for both recreational sports and to develop elite athletes.
One idea Bacher is considering is to run elite summer sports camps, associated with existing Jewish camps, which would combine sports and cultural programming. Also on the agenda is partnering with existing Jewish sports programs.
In the meantime, Maccabi Canada is raising its profile through fun events: it will hold its first annual bridge tournament on Nov. 9, and it is already publicizing its annual picnic at Camp Robin Hood in June 2012.
Twenty-seven runners recently participated in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, raising thousands of dollars for Maccabi Canada.
For more information, visit the Maccabi website at www.maccabicanada.com.