Jul 1, 2008 | Marmot, Summer 2008

VIMSS continues to help our future Olympians

The Vancouver Island Mountain Sports Society works to put Vancouver Island athletes on the podium in both winter and summer alpine events.

While there are programs that help athletes when they reach the amateur level – and are aiming for the Olympics – VIMSS has a more grassroots focus: the athletes who are just starting out.

The sports society was originally formed to help athletes with travel expenses in getting off Vancouver Island for competition, VIMSS director Joanna Fox said. Many events occur within a few hours of the Lower Mainland, which is convenient for mainland-based athletes, but more expensive for those on Vancouver Island who must take the ferry and stay in hotels and often pay their own expenses.

“It’s important to help these athletes because they are the future. Some of them will be future Paralympic and Olympic athletes that will represent Canada,” Fox said.

“They train really hard and put a lot of determination and dedication into getting better. Because they’re emerging athletes, they’re not at a level where they are eligible for carding from Sport Canada, so they’re always looking for help with their training and competing costs.”

While Canadian National Alpine Ski Team member Allison Forsyth might spend $140,000 in just one year on the competitive circuit, which takes into consideration equipment, travel and even wax technicians, she has a lot of help from national sporting organizations and sponsors.

Emerging athletes, on the other hand, rely on their parents to foot the bill. The Mountain Sports Society is making a difference in their level of opportunity, Fox said. Grants are awarded twice a year, in the spring and fall. In the fall of 2007, grants totaling $7,000 were distributed to 14 athletes, Fox said. “They’re essentially travel grants. If they are an emerging mountain sport athlete on Vancouver Island, they can apply.”

The Society has yet to award a grant for a mountain bike athlete because none have applied, but Fox is hoping that will change this year. Cutoff for spring grants was May 26.

Rick Gibson has been a sponsor of the Society for the past two years and says, “I support VIMSS because it provides a guarantee that the youth of Vancouver Island has every opportunity to enjoy and excel at sports to whatever level they wish to achieve.”

Every year the Society holds a black tie event at Mount Washington Alpine Resort’s Raven Lodge. Each year the event raises thousands of dollars to put towards athletes’ travel costs. This past April, the society raised $12,000 from the annual event, now coined the Black and Blue Gala.

“The fundraising went very, very well,” said Fox. “I think it’s a record for us. It brings our total raised to $47,000 from the four galas and other small fundraising initiatives. Our fundraising success is thanks to a truly supportive community that believes in what we are doing.”

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