Irving’s sports camps create spheres of influence
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the May issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Mark Heller
In 2014, Cassandra Irving took her first trip outside North America. Two random coincidences and three years later, Irving has a continental network of donors and sponsors helping coaches teach sports to children literally halfway across the world.
The former Grand Canyon University basketball player had never considered mission trips after graduating in 1999. Neither had her husband, Mike, when his GCU baseball playing days ended the year before. They met at GCU and moved to Mississauga, Ontario, to be near Mike’s family, and Cassandra went into marketing and communications.
She made her first foray to India and Ukraine on mission trips while being commissioned to ghostwrite a book, which is when she learned of “Tarika,” the Hindu word for “star.” She put it in the manuscript and thought nothing more of it until a few months later, when she was invited to a dinner during which a movie titled “Tarika” was shown in the background.
It was her sign from above, so she took her then 11-year-old son to the Tarika Center in southern India, where she found impoverished adults, children and entire communities. Unable to simply donate large sums of money, she turned to her sports background as a mechanism for helping kids’ education and their futures.
“You don’t really know what’s going to happen, you just feel you’re supposed to go,” she said. “The rest of life gets put on hold. You go and let everything else fall into place after that.”
Sports is barely part of girls’ lives in India, let alone among Ukrainian orphans. So she returned to Canada and, with Mike, created Game On sports camps for kids ages 5-13 (http://www.gameoncamps.com/), which feature former college coaches leading basketball, baseball and soccer camps in India and Ukraine. Mike also does baseball camps (http://www.batterupbaseball.ca).
Irving’s biggest long-term goal is to bring American and Canadian kids (and their parents) to India or Ukraine, and vice versa.
“When kids see kids from other countries, that’s where global relationships occur in the next generation for years to come,” she said. “It’ll be something way beyond what they read or heard about, but what they see.”
With a day job, marriage and two kids, mission trips weren’t on the radar three years ago. Now, every day is a mission.
“This is my way of giving back,” she said. “When I got back from our first camps, I was hoping the Lord would say, ‘We’re done.’ Instead I heard, ‘Keep up the good work.’”