Varsity Reds turn out for Martin Parnell's 24-hour tennis marathon for Right to Play

Varsity Reds turn out for Martin Parnell's 24-hour tennis marathon for Right to Play

Martin Parnell is a man on a mission. Over the past few years, he's been pushing himself to the limit both physically and mentally in a quest to raise money for Right to Play.

He's run over 250 marathons. He's set 10 Guinness Book World Records. All to raise money for the organisation that fosters the use of play and sport as a means of empowering and transforming young people around the globe. 

This week he was back in Fredericton and at it again - this time playing tennis for 24 hours straight. There to support him were members of the local community, Right to Play UNB, UNB faculty members, support staff and students, a whole bunch of Varsity Reds and the Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant. 

It's all proof positive that Parnell's message is catching fire. For Parnell, though, this journey started much earlier, with a bicycle trip across Africa.

"Our first night in Sudan there were kids playing soccer on a sand field. In Ethiopia there were kids playing table tennis. And I just started playing with them," Parnell said. "It just reoccurred all the way along - through Ethiopia, Tanzania, Botswana... It was a way of communicating. I couldn't speak the language, but we could speak through sport."

It was an inspiring experience, but Parnell came back to Canada not knowing what to do with it. That is, until one fateful night when he met a friend Tom Healy who told Parnell all about Right to Play. The rest, as they say, is history.

His quests are extraordinary feats of endurance. And when the going gets tough, Parnell says its the kids who keep it alive.

"I've seen the impact. I've seen how these programs give kids hope. Hope for the future and hope for change," he said. "Right to Play is now in over 50 First Nations communities in Canada. Little things can make a huge difference for kids."

He's also learned a lot about himself along the way.

"It's about getting to the start line. We tend to hold ourselves back and worry about failure. Don't worry about it. I've learned way more by trying stuff I've never done before."