Fortier makes impact on South Africa tour

Albertus Magnus junior and former Naugatuck High softball player Gillian Fortier, second from the left in the second row, traveled to Cape Town, South Africa this summer as part of Beyond Sports’ first South Africa Softball Tour. –CONTRIBUTED

Albertus Magnus junior and former Naugatuck High softball player Gillian Fortier, second from the left in the second row, traveled to Cape Town, South Africa this summer as part of Beyond Sports’ first South Africa Softball Tour. –CONTRIBUTED

Influencing the life of another for the better is among the most significant actions a person can take.  Albertus Magnus junior and former Naugatuck High softball player Gillian Fortier learned that lesson this summer when she traveled to South Africa and touched the lives of total strangers.

Fortier traveled to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks this summer as part of Beyond Sports’ first South Africa Softball Tour. The group of collegiate softball players took the goodwill tour to bring the game of softball to local youth through service clinics.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Fortier, who traveled to South Africa from June 19 through July 1. “But when we got off the plane after a 24-hour trip these people took each one of us under their wings. They showed us what to do, what not to do and where to go. The friendships and the bonds we made with these total strangers have created a whole lot of new friends on Facebook.”

Beyond Sports went out to remote villages to conduct softball clinics and played three friendly softball games against Cape Town’s best softball teams. Off the field, the group spent time learning the history and the culture of the people they befriended.

“When we pulled into some of these villages in our tour bus the little kids would run out to meet our bus,” Fortier said. “It was such an incredible experience. We held clinics and although their softball teams were not at the college level they expected us to compete and give it our all against them.”

The trip included visits to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated, and the Castle of Good Hope. The group also hiked Table Mountain and visited the District 6 Museum.

The highlight of the trip for Fortier was going on an actual big game safari.

“We saw some amazing sights but the one thing I will never forget is that safari. The wild animals were so close to us it was really exciting. It really gave me a different perspective seeing another culture and how they live.”

While Fortier probably won’t get the chance to go back to Africa with Beyond Sports — a whole new group of players will get that experience next year — the trip has certainly left a mark. Fortier said she would love to go back to South Africa someday to continue the goodwill and friendships she’s made.

“I would love to go back there,” Fortier said. “I feel we made a big difference in their lives. For now my focus in on getting ready for my junior year and getting back into the swing of things with the Albertus Magnus softball team.”