Pitching in: Fundraiser kicks off to bring Ukrainian women’s softball team to B.C.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine softball team determined to attend Canada Cup'
Ukraine softball team determined to attend Canada Cup
WATCH: A war may be raging around them, but the Ukrainian Women's Junior National Softball team is determined to compete in this year's Canada Cup in South Surrey. Funding for amateur sports is challenging at the best of times - and with the war creating even more obstacles - the Ukrainians say they need your help. Aaron McArthur reports. – May 29, 2023

Organizers of an annual global women’s softball tournament have launched a fundraiser to bring a Ukrainian national team to Surrey, B.C., to compete.

The Canada Cup, held between July 7 and 16 at Softball City, is set to be the largest of its kind in Canadian history, with more than 1,500 elite athletes from around the world.

Director Laura Ballance said the Ukrainian Women’s Junior National Softball team’s application came late, but when the board received a direct request from the Government of Ukraine, it couldn’t refuse.

Click to play video: 'Team Ukraine needs help to come to Canada Cup'
Team Ukraine needs help to come to Canada Cup

“The government is highly supportive of continuing — despite the war — to give opportunities to their young athletes,” Ballance told Global News. “These young women, despite trying to stay together in Kyiv, some are in Warsaw.

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“Obviously their families are deeply involved in the conflict in Ukraine, so they were being forced to fundraise to be able to get their transportation and stay here.”

The Canada Cup launched its fundraising campaign to support the Ukrainian team on Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, a GoFundMe page had raked in more than $3,500 of its $60,000-goal. Individuals and corporations can also donated to the BC Amateur Sport Fund and receive a tax receipt.

While the Canada Cup, a non-profit that promotes local and female athletes, can’t afford to bring the Ukrainian team to B.C., Ballance said she’s confident the community will pitch in.

“In 2016, our same organization hosted world championships in softball and we saw these incredible random acts of kindness,” she said.

“We saw local business people stepping up and provided cleats, equipment to teams that have incredible economic diversity … We know that people will step up to support these young women.”

Ballance said the Canada Cup is a “special opportunity” both for athletes from the war-torn country, and for Canada to host them. The tournament will be a rare occasion for the women to fully reunite in the midst of the ongoing conflict, launched by Russia in February 2022.

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In a news release, Team Ukraine U19 coach Vasyl Kysil said “nothing unites people like sports,” and the women are “thrilled” to be coming to Canada to compete in the world-class event.

“We have had to overcome some major obstacles, but we have remained committed to fielding an elite fastpitch team that prides itself in representing our great country,” he said.

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