Camp Fortune did an excellent job of living up to its prosperous name Thursday.
The ski resort in Chelsea, Quebec saw the annual charity skiathon for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa (BGCO) snowball in popularity this year as the impressive one-day fundraiser doubled its number of participants and raised twice as much dough.
“We said last year that we were hoping to be back this year, bigger and better,” said event chair Darcy Walsh, general manager of communications marketing firm Edelman Ottawa, which was a black diamond sponsor.
It was a bluebird day on the ski hill as 180-plus skiers got outside for some fresh air, exercise and maybe even some racing on the dual GS course. If there were any moguls to be found there, they were more of the influential mover-and-shaker kind than the snowy, bumpy kind.
The fundraiser netted $152,000 for the Boys and Girls Club, which helps at-risk children and youth learn and develop skills through after-school, group activities and leadership opportunities. The grand total, announced later in the evening at the nearby Chelsea Pub, was met with loud cheers and applause.
What a treat it was to hear a trio of retired Olympic and national alpine skiers — Larisa Yurkiw, Patrick Biggs and Ryan Semple — discuss their racing careers over the lunch break with Les Rechan, the extremely energetic and colourful chief executive of top sponsor Solace. The Ottawa-based tech company, which is a sponsor of Alpine Canada, is in the business of efficiently moving data between applications, connected devices and people.
Biggs and Semple both started skiing at age two, while the former raced at Camp Fortune and the latter in the Laurentian Mountains, beginning at Mont Blanc before moving over to Mont Tremblant.
Yurkiw, 30, travelled from Collingwood, a couple hours north of Toronto, to participate in the skiathon that day. She, too, learned to ski at age two, after following in the footsteps — or, rather, ski tracks — of her two older brothers. Ski racing “kept me out of a whole lot of trouble,” said Yurkiw, who grew up in small town Owen Sound and clearly had a fearless need for speed and a love of competition. She raced at speeds of up to 140 km/hour, the room heard.
Yurkiw shared some of her trials and tribulations, like when she was cut from the Canadian team. She got the bad news via an email. With pluck and perseverance, the elite athlete struck out on her own, hired a coach and gathered sponsors to support her travel and training. Her dream came true when she qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She had missed the 2010 Vancouver Games due to a high-speed crash that badly injured her left knee.
Come live auction time, Rechan persuaded everyone that Semple's moustache wasn't sexy enough for the ladies. He got the audience bidding on a good ol’ fashioned shave. The top bid of $4,000 came from Rechan’s wife, Meredithe Rechan, who’s on the board of BGCO.
Rechan threw Semple a lifeline with the phone-a-friend option, and called up Solace founder and chairman Craig Betts on his cell. Betts happened to be across the pond in France. Rechan offered Betts the chance to save Semple’s facial hair by upping the bid. Betts mulled the matter over before raising it to $6,500 on the condition that Semple’s moustache stays but that Biggs’ scruffy beard goes.
It was Walsh’s second year of leading the organizing committee, which also included: Jonathan Ball, Brendan Bell, Biggs, Kris Bulmer, Sarah Grand, Jamie Meldrum, Liza Mrak, Natalie Raffoul, Michael Renaud, Semple and Chris Vivone.
There was also buzz in the room over a new gala being organized for BGCO by an influential group of volunteers. It's slated to take place in late August.
The 12 live auction items for sale included a private five-course dinner with wine pairings for six at North & Navy restaurant; a private sushi dinner for eight courtesy of Shinka Sushi Bar; VIP treatment to RBC Bluesfest; a backyard BBQ for 26, with meat from Muckleston & Brockwell and seafood from Jost Kaufmann, plus 26 Bluesfest passes; and two weeks at the popular kids’ summer camp, Camp Otterdale. The live auction, alone, raised $30,000.
Attendees also heard that day from a Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa youth. Colin Lochalamoi, a Grade 12 student at Woodroffe High School, spoke about how sports have helped him to overcome barriers in his life and give him a sense of belonging. "Sports have also taught me that in order to be successful in anything you must be dedicated."