After reading their letter of thanks to Canadian Olympian Melanie Booth (centre), Debbie Dias (left) and Vanessa Ferreira pose with the Olympic bronze medalist. Photo by Evan Boudreau

St. Raymond's gets an Olympic thrill with soccer star Melanie Booth

  • September 20, 2012

TORONTO - Students at St. Raymond's Catholic School got a taste of Olympic glory on Thursday morning when bronze medallist Melanie Booth paid a visit to the Toronto school.

Booth, a defender on the pitch, was a member of Canada's national women's soccer team that captured the hearts of Canadians when the squad captured bronze in London this summer. The Burlington, Ont., native has also been a member of the silver-medal winning team at the FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in 2002, finished second at the 2006 Peace Queen Cup and took home gold at the 2011 Pan-American women's soccer tournament all while donning the maple leaf.

Booth was thrilled to share her medal with the St. Raymond's students.

"It's probably one of my favourite things about this Olympic medal, being able to share it and to just see the joy and excitement that everybody has when they do see it," said Booth. "Still I think I'd rather be out on the field than talking to people."

Nervous as she is about public speaking, Booth gave one message she feels young students need to hear — even if it means sweating in the spotlight for a little bit longer.

"Just never give up. You're going to have to many roadblocks in the way, people telling you you can't do things, injuries, other things that will hold you back. But if you really believe in yourself and you really want to go for your dream just never give up."

"I'm excited to have her here because she represented our country in the Olympics and I really like soccer," said Vanessa Ferreira, 10. "It teaches you that you can do anything. It's hard to go inside the Olympics but if you try hard you can do anything."

Along with fellow Grade 6 student Debbie Dias, Ferreira was selected to write and read a letter of thanks to Booth for taking the time to stop by their school.

"We were chosen to represent our school by saying thank you to somebody who is representing our country and who is a great athlete," said Ferreira. "It's an honour."

St. Raymond's was one of 10 schools from across the Toronto Catholic District School Board selected to host an Olympian or Paralympian on Sept. 20. It was part of a three-day celebration, from Ottawa to Toronto, for many of the athletes who represented Canada at the London Olympics. The three days included a trip to Parliament Hill, school and hospital visits and was to be capped off with a parade through downtown Toronto on Friday and a public celebration of the Olympians.

"It's such an honour and especially after watching the news yesterday and seeing how the Prime Minister also acknowledged their wonderful gifts of sportsmanship to Canada," said Anne Marie Verre, St. Raymond's principal. "To see a female soccer hero coming is a wonderful role model especially for my young girls, but also for the boys of course."

Finding out their guest's identity just 24 hours earlier left little time for Verre and the students to prepare, although you'd never have guested it walking into the gymnasium.

"We immediately went onto the Internet and searched Melanie Booth and some exciting facts about her ... and we posted it throughout the school so the children realized that this person is actually coming here," said Verre. "So the children could (then) get an idea of who she was simply by walking through the halls."

This preparation, short as it may have been, gave the students at St. Raymond's the ammunition they needed to bombard Booth with questions, autograph requests and photo shoots — excitement she enjoys almost as much as being on the field.

Grade 6 students Debbie Dias and Vanessa Ferreira read their letter of thanks to Olympic bronze medalist Melanie Booth.

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