Cricket teams from around the Bay Area are stepping up to the plate and taking the bat for education equality. The Cricket For Charity tournament, the first of its kind in the area, will be held in San Ramon on May 4 and May 5.
Organized by Dream2Play, Mashal and the San Ramon Cricket Association (SRCA), Cricket for Charity will pit 16 local teams against each other to raise money for Vital Voices' Malala Fund. Malala Fund grants ensure that 40 Pakistani girls ages 5-12 who would otherwise be engaged in domestic labor, or at high risk of entering the workforce, will be able to attend school.
"Cricket for Charity really came about from transforming lives through using sports," said Dream2Play Founder and Boardmember Zeeshan Khan. "The fundamental we're looking at is education, global education. We're the enablers, bringing things together. We want to put these events together, make sure people enjoy it and that it goes for a good cause."
Originally from Pakistan, Khan has played cricket for nearly 20 years and joined SRCA six years ago. While he hopes the tournament will help expand the popularity of cricket clubs beyond 40-something men, Khan hopes Cricket for Charity will shed light on the growing need for education in an increasingly connected world.
"Education has really changed my life, education can set you free. You can take anything away, but you can't take my education away," he said. "It makes you more powerful, you get more confident, you can change your life."
The response has been overwhelming, with cricket teams from San Ramon, Dublin and even the South Bay filling out the competition roster almost immediately. There are about 20 teams of 11 in the SRCA, which organizes two tournaments a year, in addition to organizations such as Fremont's Cricbay and the Tennis Cricket Association, which each have 80 to 90 teams.
A healthy competition has developed among cricketers, many of whom have become close friends and circulate between teams, Khan noted.
The tournament, which will be played in knockout format with six-men teams instead of the usual 11, will be held at San Ramon's Monarch Cricket Grounds from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. First round matches will be held on Saturday with three-round finals and a family celebration on Sunday. Sunday's activities will include a bake sale, face painting, a closing ceremony and cross-cultural educational opportunities.
"It's about community building, about really doing a healthy sport making sure our children remember our culture as well," Khan said, adding that he hopes people from a variety of cultures will attend the tournament to support and learn.
There's already a great variety of cricketers in the San Ramon Valley, with Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, American and even a couple from Zimbabwe joining teams. Dublin resident Dusty Mapson first played cricket in 2004 while serving in the Navy; he joined SRCA in 2008 and plays for the Bay Cricket Club.
"The point of this tournament is to raise money however, I think the ultimate impact of an event like this is to bring the community of San Ramon and the surrounding areas together for a common cause," Mapson said. "In addition to raising money for a great cause, events like this help foster relationships and understanding between our community's many different cultures. What makes the greater San Ramon area such a wonderful place to live is its ethnic and cultural diversity."
Cricket for Charity has already raised $25,000 in donations and team sponsorships, approximately $10,000 of which were individual contributions toward the Malala Fund. Contributors included the 8-year-old daughter of a cricketer who, after learning about Malala, asked that her parents donate money that would have been spent on her birthday party to Vital Voices. Khan's daughter gave $200 she had saved to the charity as well.
"If I can educate kids just to be charitable, I tell them that you were born with a silver spoon and you have the power already to change the world. Because the fact is that you are in the power of changing and educating yourself, so make sure you are thinking about others all the time. We are a connected community," he said.
Khan hopes to organize several other charitable sporting events under Dream2Play, choosing a new nonprofit to benefit from each tournament. For more information on Cricket for Charity or to donate, visit the event Facebook page.