Teamwork the name of the game for Banff Canmore Community Foundation

When Community Foundations of Canada partnered with the True Sport Foundation, it had two main goals: First, to help support sporting organizations, many of which do not have charitable status, and second, to foster a sense of belonging and to promote strong values through physical activity.

It’s already working.

Getting Sport Organizers Talking

The Banff-Canmore region is known for its love of the outdoors and active lifestyles.  Yet the Banff Canmore Community Foundation saw a need for sport organizations in the Bow Valley region to find ways to network, share ideas, and  work cooperatively so that everyone in the community could reap the benefits of their shared outdoor playground and have an active lifestyle.

One of the first things that the BCCF did was to help create the Bow Valley True Sport and Recreation Council (BVTSRC) and worked with them to start gathering information. By taking stock of all the organizations operating in the area, BVTSRC organized the Bow Valley Sport Summit, where athletes, coaches and educators could get together and solve problems.

“We’ve brought coaches in from different clubs and usually, they don’t get the chance to talk to each other,” says Mario Léonard, Executive Director of BVTSRC. “For example, we had a ski coach talking to a hockey coach to share information.”

Because some sport organizations have more established organizational structures, they can lend a hand to the newer members of the community. For example, coaches might share team-building philosophies, while other organizers might help each other apply for municipal grants.

This winter, BVTSRC is hoping to establish a website that helps facilitate communication between sport organizations directly. “We’re a catalyst,” says Léonard. “We want these people to help themselves.”

“It’s a nice way to meet people and see how strong sport is in the Valley,” continues Léonard. “Sport is a way to connect with people, and we know there is a need there.”

Promoting the True Sport Values and Principles

For Jamie McCulloch of Canmore, skiing the world’s most beautiful slopes is best when everyone is included – and the Banff Canmore Community Foundation and the True Sport Foundation couldn’t agree more.

McCulloch realized how much he loved sharing his sport when he helped his sister, who has autism, learn to ski. From there, he began working at organizations that focused on inclusion in sport, and eventually decided that he had to start his own.

“I can’t stress enough the support we get from the Banff Canmore Community Foundation to expand our program,” says McCulloch. “Grant money goes towards running programs that fulfill our mission of making all mountain sports accessible to people with physical and cognitive disabilities.”

In addition to helping people learn to ski, Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA) equips stand-up paddleboards with extra pontoons to help support wheelchairs, modifies kayak seats to provide extra back support, and alters the design of canoe paddles to accommodate differently-abled canoeists. In addition, other members of RMA are participating in horseback riding, hiking, and snowboarding.

Perhaps the best part is that some of the participants who have been around for a while are now so experienced that they are able to mentor newer members of the group.

“We have very skilled athletes who started as participants and are now volunteers and instructors in our program,” explains McCulloch. “It is incredibly empowering to have leaders go through our program and then come back and teach those who were just like them, trying the sport for the first time.”

With over 2,000 adaptive experiences a year, RMA is building up the Bow Valley community through inclusion, and the kind of empowerment being cultivated is having exactly the kind of effect that community foundations and the True Sport Foundation are looking for: belonging.

“We have so many people from the local community who come back week after week and they are with the same volunteers, and they become friends. It’s quite special, in that way, the bonds that have been built,” says McCulloch.

Clearly, when sports are inclusive, everyone wins.

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Image courtesy of Rundle Mountain Cycling Club

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