This year marked the eighth time Hawthorn visited Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for a pre-season camp and this time they decided to give back to the community that has welcomed them with open arms.
As part of their commitment to the AFL Players Care program, the Hawks players took time out of their busy schedule in Mooloolaba this week to put together bikes for young children with congenital heart diseases as they looked to spread some festive cheer.
The players were broken up into groups to build the bikes and were told to treat it as a team building exercise, where they had to use teamwork and put their problem-solving skills to work.
But Hawthorn delegate and ruckman Jonathon Ceglar said the exercise was much more than that.
“At the end we all presented a bike to a child with a heart disease or a younger sibling of a brother or sister affected by the disease,” Ceglar told aflplayers.com.au.
“As siblings of someone with a congenital heart disease, they can sacrifice a lot as well, so we really wanted to help them out too.
“To see those kids with a big smile on their faces and having a good time was so special and you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
AFL Players Care is the players’ official charity initiative and was launched in 2015 when the male playing group voted to increase their match fee charity contributions from $25 to $50 per player, per game.
While $25 per game per player is still donated to the AFL Players’ official charity partner, Ladder, to help tackle youth homelessness, an additional $25 per game per player is now contributed to the AFL Players Care fund.
$180,000 of this fund is then equally distributed among all 18 male AFL clubs each season, giving each team the opportunity to support one or two charities they are passionate about.
The Hawks players decided to make a donation of $4790 to HeartKids, a foundation which supports children, teenagers, adults, and their families, who are affected by congenital heart disease with money raised going towards research, support, advocacy and information surrounding the disease.
The funds were put towards the equipment and parts the Hawthorn players assembled for the kids.
Ceglar said he and fellow delegate Daniel Howe opened the donation process up to their teammates, and it quickly became apparent that HeartKids struck a chord with the players – particularly the fathers among the group with young children.
“We always throw it open to the group and most blokes know that if you’ve got someone or someone you know of is going through a tough time then we can donate to them,” Ceglar said.
“If one of us comes up with an idea, the boys get right behind it.”
Ceglar said the fact that 1 in 100 Australian children are diagnosed with a heart condition from birth really resonated with him, with the Hawks players receiving a briefing from an employee at HeartKids prior to the exercise kicking off.
“For these sorts of charities $5000 means a lot and hopefully our donation makes a difference,” Ceglar said.
“To spend only a morning out of our day and a portion of our Players Care donation was quite satisfying.”
In 2017, the inaugural AFLW playing group elected to become a part of the AFL Players Care program, donating $25 of their football salaries to the cause.
In 2019, the fund donated $512,460 to 35 Australian charities with a total of $1,897,125 donated to charities over the last four years.