By Madalyn Howitt
In a year like no other, the road to the Olympics has been winding and uncertain for many athletes. A constant concern among many is their ability to fund their Olympic dreams, but one organization has made it their mission to ease some of the financial stresses of high performance sports.
CAN Fund is a charity that allows Canadians to donate to help raise money for athletes hoping to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics. Donations are accepted year-round, and people are encouraged to donate especially when Games are not front-and-centre on TV and in the news. When Canadians donate, they receive a tax receipt and also find out which athlete received their donation, incorporating a personal touch to the sometimes detached donation process.
Jane Roos is the founder of CAN Fund and grew up in Ottawa. Herself a former elite athlete, Roos became an advocate for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls after a serious car accident ended her own athletic career. She said many of Canada’s athletes have always relied on support from CAN Fund, which helps fill in some of the gaps between corporate and government funding, but after some athletes lost sponsorships and speaking engagements due to COVID and training plans were disrupted, the charity played an especially vital role for many this year.
“We had 850 athletes apply [this year], so the majority of athletes in Canada really rely on us, and we rely on Canadians,” said Roos. She added that four Games in one year (the current Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics followed by the Beijing Winter Games in six months’ time) have put added strain on funding options for athletes.
Roos said CAN Fund has responded by promoting some new funding initiatives, including an option to become a monthly donor for $10, and the CAN Fund #150Women initiative, which helps women donors support female athletes directly.
Some of Ottawa’s athletes who have received funding via CAN Fund include Tokyo Olympians Ariane Bonhomme, Alicia Brown, Pam Buisa, Vincent De Haître, Lauren Gale, Derek Gee, Tim Nedow, Maddy Schmidt, Cam Smedley, Mike Tayler and Erica Wiebe, among others.
You can watch the touching moment here when canoe-kayak sprinter Maddy Schmidt discovered she’d be receiving funding for her Olympic dreams back in 2019.
Roos said the thrill of surprising athletes with funding from their fellow Canadians never gets old.
“I think anytime you surprise an athlete, every one of them has the same reaction. They kind of do a sigh of relief. Every athlete is so relieved to get funding,” she said, adding the often athletes feel very moved.
“There’s this sense of, you’re getting $6,000 from a Canadian you’ve never met, who are doing that because they want you to succeed, because they want to be part of your journey.”
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