An alumnus of Waterloo Engineering who went on to a professional football career will be honoured with a mural in his Ontario hometown after a successful campaign by a determined group of kids.

Students in a grades 7 and 8 French immersion class at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School urged politicians in Haliburton to recognize the achievements of Taly Williams (BASc ’94, civil engineering) and his sister Lesley Tashlin alongside five local athletes already featured on an arena wall.

The campaign drew widespread support, including a letter from former Toronto Argonauts star and current team executive Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemens, and convinced council in Dysart et al Township to unanimously approve the addition of paintings of the two athletes to the wall of the A.J. LaRue Arena.

'Righting a wrong'

“I guess you could say we’re righting a wrong that was overlooked,” Mayor Andrea Roberts said.

A fundraising effort is now under way to pay for the murals. It has topped $12,000 on the way to its $30,000 goal.

Williams grew up in Haliburton and played football for the Waterloo Warriors before suiting up as a defensive back with both the Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the mid-1990s.

Symbol of achievement

Now a co-founder and managing partner at AQORA Capital, an investment firm in Los Angeles focused on water infrastructure, technology and services, Williams has been touched by the effort.

“I would love to be on a mural to be a symbol to my kids and others regarding what you can achieve and who can achieve it,” he wrote when the campaign began.

Tashlin is the only Olympian to come from Haliburton County. She represented Canada at the Atlanta summer games in 1996, competing in the 100-metre hurdles and the 4 x 100-metre relay.

'Timely and fitting tribute'

Williams, the first local player to make it to the Canadian Football League, and Tashlin both excelled in sports at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, where some of their records still stand.

"If possible, (their) inclusion would seem to be a timely and fitting tribute," Clemens, a teammate of Williams on the Argos, wrote in his letter. "They would also become the first Black athletes on the mural, and it is my hope that this visual representation might inspire not just Black and BIPOC youth, but all children."

The students and their teacher, Marina Thomazo, have launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for the murals.

Photo: Taly Williams (left) during his playing days with the Toronto Argonauts and Lesley Tashlin at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.