20 Jun 2021

During his ten-day fundraising journey across Slovenia, radio host Miha Dezelak played alongside national Olympic table tennis player Deni Kozul to raise money for children from disadvantaged families in the country.

by Jia Li, ITTF Foundation Communication Coordinator

Our feet are getting itchy as the Northern Hemisphere welcomes summer, for many travelling for leisure is still not recommended under Covid-19 regulations. However, Radio 1, the leading Slovenia radio channel decided that, despite the pandemic, the support for children from disadvantaged families should continue, and the yearning for travel should be fulfilled, Covid-19 style of course!

Play for an equal society

Educational Opportunity For All says that children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds receive too little support to succeed in school and in learning opportunities later in life.

“In Slovenia, the situation for socially disadvantaged families is even worse during the pandemic, and more so for the kids. Most of these children only have access to hot meals in school. Now that schools and clubs are closed, those kids are left with unsatisfying cold meals and no social contacts with the outside world.” Miha Dezelak

Determined to change this for Slovenia, Dezelak embarked on a ten-day bike journey, during which he had been challenged to five different sports across the country to raise money for early intervention. As a self-proclaimed table tennis player, Dezelak was excited to show Slovenia what the sport has to offer for positive social change.

“Table tennis is a great sport for all. It is for all ages and sizes, as well as people with disabilities. It empowers children and offers them a sense of belonging, where they feel safe, included, and loved.” Miha Dezelak

Smash for solidarity and inclusiveness

Dezelak was not alone. Radio 1 livestreamed his journey and slowly, a fellowship was formed. Local communities gathered at every stop to help raise awareness of social inequality, using sport for a positive outcome. Hundreds of cyclists in Tivola rode with Dezelak, and together, they have contributed 2,000 EUR to the fund.

Athletes and celebrities joined his quest as Dezelak cycled through the beautiful Slovenian landscape. On 8th June, the eighth stop of his journey, the long-anticipated table tennis match was finally here. A hefty donation had been promised with every Dezelak win, and he vowed to not let the disadvantaged families down. With the help of Deni Kozul, an Olympic table tennis player, Dezelak soon bounced back from the rocky start and the duo happily bagged the fund for the disadvantaged children as their opponents suffered the bitter, yet sweet defeat.

Dezelak’s campaign centres around helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds

Dezelak’s journey is coming to an end as we publish this article. ITTF Foundation is excited to be a part of this fundraising initiative, and is grateful for the effort of Radio 1 and the Slovenian Table Tennis Association in helping to foster positive social change through table tennis.

“Through my journey, I have met a lot of children who deserve a better life. Table tennis can help improve children’s well-being. In sport, children have good role models who show them that there are no limits in life, only in the mind.” Miha Dezelak

When asked what they would like to do with the fund, a little boy from one of the disadvantaged families told us:

“I wanted to go on a vacation. I have never been outside of my neighbourhood and would really like to see what the sea looks like.”

The end of Dezelak’s journey marks the beginning of a new mission. With the support from the Slovenian Table Tennis Association, all clubs in Slovenia will open their door to children from disadvantaged families in September, allowing them to train for free in a social and positive environment.

Looking for other creative ways to engage your audience on a CSR event? Take a look at our pilot project for the World Table Tennis Day in Argentina.

Do you have a story of table tennis fostering positive social change to share? Get in touch with us now at [email protected]

General News ITTF Foundation Deni Kozul Miha Dezelak