Some of Australia's brightest young footballers visited Ballarat yesterday for a warm winter lunch with the Salvation Army, as part of a personal development program.
The Rio Tinto AFL Flying Boomerangs are a leadership and development team carrying 25 of the best under-16 Indigenous players from throughout the country.
The Boomerangs are on a week-long camp across Victoria, where they'll be playing two exhibition matches against the AFL World Team at Trevor Barker Oval, while also going through a series of cultural and educational training sessions.
Development coach and three-time Brisbane Lions AFL premiership player Chris Johnson said the experience was eye opening for the players, many of whom had never travelled outside of their communities.
"It's certainly has been big getting them out of their comfort zone and giving them an appreciation for what they have," said Mr Johnson.
"This is so big just to give them an appreciation about what is happening around where we're staying," said Mr Johnson.''
Lifelong Lions supporter Beverley Jewell said sharing lunch with the stars of the future was a wonderful experience, while meeting former Brisbane Lions and indigenous superstar Chris Johnson was a dream come true.
She even got the 264-game former AFL champion player to autograph her vintage Fitzroy Lions football jumper, putting a huge smile across the Ballarat woman's face.
"I'm a lifelong Lions fan, as a young kid I used to go with Dad to Fitzroy games and we've stuck with them ever since, '' said Ms Jewell.
" I can't believe I just met Chris Johnson, he was so welcoming;I'm never going to wash this again."
Salvation Army Ballarat volunteers and meals program coordinator, Karen Thomas said seeing the excitement and boundless smiles shining across the room made all the heavy lifting worth it.
"It means a lot; they were crowded up early waiting for the doors to open,'' Ms Thomas said.
"We do this every Tuesday and Thursday, probably not to this capacity because we have an extra twenty to thirty people today, but as long as they all leave with a smile on their face, that makes me happy."
Despite the festivities, Ms Thomas said feeding and caring for the less fortunate during the colder months of winter remained a constant issue.
"At the end of the day, some of these people will go home and they won't come out again until next Tuesday for a meal and they won't see or talk to anyone, '' Ms Thomas said.
"With all the food we waste in this country, this shouldn't have to happen."
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