Sports

Program offers aid to athletes

For hundreds of gifted B.C. athletes, the financial burden of training and travel will be eased by a new sports program recently launched.

Growing Champions, a partnership of Sport B.C., PacificSport, and B.C. Athlete Voice, is a financial assistance program which connects businesses and individuals in British Columbia with promising athletes.

“These high-performance athletes traditionally rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad for the cost of training and competition,” said program spokesperson Susan Archibald. “This program will help with the cost of training, specialized equipment and travel to competitions.

“There are many athletes who go to competitions they can afford to go to, and not the ones they need to go to.”

The program is designed to provide financial assistance to athletes aspiring to compete at the international level, but who do not yet qualify for Sport Canada funding.

The athletes compete at national and international levels, but have not yet qualified for Canada’s national teams and have limited access to funding.

It’s estimated approximately 1,200 athletes will be eligible for funding through Growing Champions, 10 per cent of whom have already been identified.

“Pacific Sport and Sport B.C. will help identify the province’s elite athletes,” said Archibald. “Many athletes are already in the system, receiving training and sports medicine counselling.”

What they don’t receive is financial assistance, a shortfall which the Growing Champions program will address.

The program will actively solicit contributors from the business community, as well as individuals, who in turn will provide $5,000 a year annually, which may be in the form of a sponsorship or tax-deductible donation. Donors must commit to a three-year involvement, and Growing Champions has set a goal of securing 300 contributors for the program.

Selected athletes receive $3,750 of each donation, with the remaining money allocated for future athlete development.

“This is a long-term program,” said Archibald. “It’s set up so it can operate in perpetuity.”

Local athletes who have been selected to receive Growing Champions funding are Lisa Nakajima (judo) and Cassandra Prygiel (diving) of Delta, and Riley McFarland (volleyball), Michelle Burnham (rowing), Kevin Yang (taekwondoe), Keith Tidey (diving), Stephanie Hansen (diving), Parminder Phangura (weightlifting) and Joke Adekola (weightlifting) of Surrey.

More information, including application information, is available at the Growing Champions website at www.growingchampions.ca or, or by sending an e-mail message to info@growingchampions.ca

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