Support future Olympians and make a difference locally
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Olympian Beckie Scott gets great joy out of seeing a group of young people with rosy-cheeked smiles and a sense of accomplishment after they’ve spent a few hours having fun outside on cross-country skis.
“The individual stories are most inspiring and keep us doing what we do,” says Scott, one of Canada’s most successful cross-country ski racers with more than 20 medals in world competitions. Scott’s organization, Spirit North, has been giving at-risk kids and minorities the chance to learn a new sport, such as cross-country skiing, since 2009.
Today, they work with 6,000 youth annually. Some participants have gone on to compete in the Alberta and B.C. Winter Games.
“They would not have had that opportunity without Spirit North,” says Scott. “Their personal growth, the way that they saw themselves after that experience was truly remarkable.”
The benefits of engaging in winter sport are immense and well documented for all ages - staying active in winter, building confidence and resilience, trying new experiences, connecting to nature and developing environmental consciousness, perhaps finding a lifelong passion and just plain having fun. To name a few.
Introducing young people to outdoor recreation and sport can be life-changing. If you need proof, just read this SnowSeekers story about Canada’s First Nation’s Snowboarding Team, (FNST) who competed in the 2010 Olympics.
Like FNST, Spirit North relies on donations and the expertise of sports leaders in communities across Canada, some of whom live in remote areas without access to rinks or community centres. Over the past decade, Spirit North has expanded its offerings to teaching youth other sports, including equestrian, canoeing and mountain biking.
“The most powerful way to support us is with donations,” says Scott. “We train, certify and employ the highest quality [of leader] we can.”
Supporting Scott’s Spirit North is just one way you can support winter sport and active lifestyles. There are many ways to donate to a ski-related charity, whether you want to help motivate youth get out into the outdoors or add your voice as a climate change advocate. Here are a few more charitable organizations you might consider when deciding where you’d like to donate your time or money.
Without winter, there is no winter sport. Are you concerned about the future of our winters because of climate change? You can be part of the advocacy group organized by outdoor enthusiasts and known as Protect Our Winters (POW). Its mission is to be a leading voice for the education and awareness of climate change, and works through retailers, athletes, ski resorts and visual and written content creators.
You can become a member for free, which allows you to use POW’s resource centre to educate yourself on climate change. If you get involved in your own community, there are training sessions to hone your advocacy skills. A cash donation helps POW carry on with its mission and vision.
Alberta-based CADS does amazing work with people who are visually, physically or cognitively impaired, teaching them to ski or snowboard. Established in 1961 by then ski school director, Jerry Johnson, who developed the programs, CADS has more than 1,500 volunteers across the country.
If you are an experienced skier or boarder looking for a volunteer opportunity, there are plenty of ski hills in Alberta and B.C., which offer the CADS program. Those ski hills include WinSport in Calgary, Pass Powderkeg in Crowsnest Pass, Sunshine, Lake Louise and many more, and soon Vista Ridge in Fort McMurray. Who knows? You might end up helping a future Paralympian.
If you love the concept, but aren’t in a position to volunteer, you can also make a donation.
If board sports are your passion, then Chill Vancouver, established in 1995, will appeal to your philanthropic side. The Vancouver-based organization, also active in the U.S., was created by the folks behind Burton Snowboards: Jake and Donna Carpenter. Their team works with more than 3,000 young people annually through schools, youth agencies, board sports partners and social programs to introduce 10- to 18-years-old to snowboarding, skateboarding and stand-up paddleboarding. The idea is to build resiliency and confidence while having fun at the same time.
Did you know that by age 14, the sport dropout rate for girls is twice that of boys? Specifically designed to support young female athletes, Fast and Female is about empowerment for girls in sport. From their website, “Fast and Female’s mission is to keep girls healthy and active in sports because it sets them up to succeed and lead in life beyond sports.”
Watch this video with former slopestyle Olympian Kelsey Serwa, about the program.
Supporting your local clubs is what gets athletes to the level that they can compete nationally, so start there if you can. It takes a lot of bodies to make a club tick, from one race of comp to the next. There are far too many to list here - but search for downhill skiing or freestyle clubs in your area and you’re sure to find organizations who would welcome your support. But as far as helping Canada’s future Olympians flourish, and supporting their dreams, the Canadian Olympic Foundation is just obvious.
As Scott’s example shows, donating time or funds to support athletes often pays it forward in returns for the community. Who knows? The vision for a new game-changing, life-changing winter sport non-profit may already be simmering in the head of a Canadian athlete competing in Beijing 2022. Supporting athletes today can support the health of the sport, and the community, tomorrow.