Sporting heroes help Newtownabbey kids get the bug
1,500 pupils try out new games with help of stars
It was a celebration of sport - in every sense.
Around 1,500 children from 23 primary schools came together in Newtownabbey yesterday for an event aimed at getting more young people involved in sport.
Belfast boxer Carl Frampton was at the Valley Leisure Centre, along with Shirley McCay, the most capped member of the Ireland Women's Hockey Team. So too were some of the Belfast Giants ice hockey players and Team Ireland Special Olympics medal winners.
The event, called a Celebration of Sport and organised by the Department for Communities, was to encourage young children to try different sports and activities, and give them an opportunity to meet their sporting heroes.
Frampton said it was great to be a part of something that aims to get kids involved in a range of sport, including cricket, canoeing, Gaelic, golf, soccer and surfing, as well as urban sports.
"Sport should be promoted as much as possible and I feel that if, like me, you're in a position to help something like this, I feel like you should do it," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Sport is a great thing to help kids learn different skills, including life skills."
Frampton, a former world champion in two weight classes, said the biggest thing sport had taught him was teamwork and "that you can't do it all on your own".
"I know I'm in an individual sport in boxing, but there's a big team behind me and a lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes to get the boxer ready to fight," he added.
"Boxing is obviously my sport, but when I was a kid I did a lot of different things and I did football and rugby at school.
"Boxing in particular has taught me teamwork, discipline, respect and self-respect, and sport is a good foundation for so many other life skills as well."
Frampton, who is an ambassador for integrated education, added: "The kids are the future after all - and sometimes they're better to deal with than adults."
Kathryn Hill, director of the active communities division at the Department for Communities, said her team was behind the event at the Valley Leisure Centre.
"There are children from 23 schools here today, predominantly P7 pupils. The aim is to allow children to try out a variety of different sports," she said.
"The other purpose of the event is to celebrate the success of local athletes in 2018, so we've invited the north Belfast boxer Carl Frampton, Shirley McCay, who's the most capped member of the Ireland Women's Hockey Team, some of the Belfast Giants ice hockey players and Team Ireland Special Olympics medal winners."
Classroom assistant Nuala McCann from Mercy Primary School on Belfast's Crumlin Road said the event was a great opportunity for pupils, who also got the chance to see the The Open Championship Claret Jug.
Two Mercy PS schoolchildren, Evie Osbourne and Holly McGuigan, aged seven and eight, said they had had fun trying out golf and martial arts.
Meanwhile, Alla Idris and Ronan Loughlin, both aged 11 and at St Patrick's Primary School in Pim Street, enjoyed the chance to meet sports stars like Frampton.
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe and former player Jeff Mason said it was important to be there to represent ice hockey in particular and sport in general.