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The power of goats

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

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Goat Canucks Goat comes full circle

All Joel Nagtegaal wanted to do was use the Vancouver Canucks as a springboard to make a tiny difference for those in need.

Little did Nagtegaal, a student at the University of the Frasier Valley, know that when he started Goat Canucks Goat for Vancouver’s playoff run last season, he’d end up having a huge impact on the lives of countless families in Kenya.

The idea was to buy one goat for every Canucks win and encourage others to do the same. They won six games before meeting their demise, but all was not lost on the goat front. In total 1,073 goats were purchased at $25 apiece, that’s $26,825 worth of goats that Canucks fans, Nagtegaal and this Canucks writer included, helped purchase last spring.

The goat buying process was simple enough, type, click, type, and although Nagtegaal knew his efforts and the generosity of Canucks fans were going to a worthy cause, it wasn’t until late July that he truly realized the impact of the selfless actions.

On July 21 a ceremony was held in Kenya, which some Canadian dignitaries, including the Canadian High Commissioner, and a handful of Kenyan officials attended, to kick-start three days of goat distribution.

Nagtegaal didn’t attend the ceremony himself, but seeing the footage of goats being passed around to the people that need them most brought the experience into perspective.

“It’s one thing here when you just give the money and whatever, but when you actually see their reactions and how important it is to them, that blew me away,” said Nagtegaal, who is still astonished at how popular his initiative became – he even received an email praising his efforts from Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia.

“The highlight of the whole experience was definitely when the actual ceremony took place. They had news cameras there and stuff in a village in Kenya and there were these Kenyan women saying how important this was to them and how next year they hope the Canucks win 100 games and the team doesn’t ever lose again.”

Ila Diepersloot, a volunteer in Kenya with The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), an organization that takes action against suffering from poverty, hunger, disaster and injustice, was one of the people who helped distribute the goats in Kenya’s Turkana region.

Ila and Pete, her husband who was also on hand to help out, had never aided the goat giving process before and while Nagtegaal felt a connection just watching the events on TV, Diepersloot said it was a touching experience to be on hand for.

“We decided to distribute 500 goats and see how it would go because we had no previous goat experience,” she wrote in a letter to the CRWRC.

“Each beneficiary is to receive nine female and one male. So ten volunteers would grab the goats and put the ropes on and hand off to the beneficiary. It was hot and dusty but it worked good. So we ended up distributing one thousand goats the first day.”

Nearly 3,000 goats were handed out overall, 1,073 which came from the kindness of Canucks fans. The Canadian representatives on hand were taken aback by the whole experience, according to Diepersloot.

“The guests were welcomed by dancing women who lifted a couple of the men to new heights, and brought them to their seats, including Pete.There were many speeches and presentations and before it was time to distribute the goats. Each guest was to hand over the goats to a beneficiary. The guests were so happy to see recipients of the goats.

“It was great they could witness the goats being given to IDPs (Internally displaced persons) who have lost everything and now have a start at providing for themselves. Here in Turkana goats are very dear to their hearts.”

With the start of the 2009-10 NHL season still a month and a half away, it’s a little too early to start thinking playoffs just yet, luckily Nagtegaal is already setting a new initiative in place to keep goats flowing into Kenya.

With the 2010 Winter Olympics on the horizon, Nagtegaal is working on Goat for Gold, which will run on the same principles of Goat Canucks Goat, except he’ll be urging Canadians to purchase a goat for each time Canada stands alone atop the podium.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Canada captured seven gold medals and 24 overall.

If the Canadians put forth a similar effort in Vancouver next February and the country is on board with Goat for Gold, just think of all the lives that could change in Kenya.

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