Pan American Games looking to youth for a mascot

Georgia Selby likes to draw. She even has her eye on getting a drawing recognized in a nationwide competition.

“I might draw a penguin on top of a world for the contest,” she said. “And my story is going to be on the Summer Olympic Games.”

Georgia, 8, recently attended a workshop at a branch of the Toronto Public Library. In small groups the children sharpened coloured pencils and put their creative abilities to the test. Also attending the workshop were some of Canada’s top athletes, some award-winning illustrators and representatives from the Pan American Games organizing committee in Toronto (TO2015). Steve Wallace is vice-president of brand activation for the TO2015.

“We are looking for really interesting colourful characters (mascots) that represent Toronto well,” he said. “It’s really about the Toronto 2015 (Games) being a really close set of games as well as being colourful, joyful and fun.”

Children aged six to 17 from across Canada are encouraged to enter the contest to create the mascot and the story behind the character for the 2015 Toronto Pan American and Para-Pan American Games.

On Feb. 9, professional author and illustrator Sean Cassidy and Olympian and Pan Am marathon swimmer Zsofia Balazs visited the Cedarbrae Public Library in Scarborough, to encourage children to participate in the contest.

That’s where Georgia Selby and her mother, Tonya MacNeil, learned more about the competition.

“I’m going to get her and her friends to do it by themselves,” MacNeil said. “I’ll fill out the form with their names on it …I want them to do it all on their own.”

Previously, the Pan Am committee hired professional illustrators to create the character to represent the Games and adorn merchandise across the country. However, this year organizers decided to leave the creativity to the younger generation. All teams are invited to deliver a hand-drawn character and a 250-word life story of the mascot they created.

“Young people are the future of the country,” author Cassidy said. “If they don’t care about the Games, then the Games won’t go on. They won’t exist.”

The contest ends on March 8 and from the thousands of submissions, the TO2015 committee will select six designs. These six short-listed characters, will be open to an online Canada-wide voting contest later in the spring. The winner’s design will become the official Pan Am 2015 mascot and the group creators along with their parents and guardians will visit their mascot and see it in person.

“Just pour your heart and soul into it and have fun, that’s the biggest thing,” swimmer Balazs said.