It Takes a Community to Raise an Athlete

An enormous amount of support and resources are behind trying to get an athlete to the Olympics, and not only for the Olympic year, but during those 4 years in between. We depend greatly on Government funding, but we put ourselves in a vulnerable position if we rely solely on it.

I was just recently in Toronto to attend the big announcement of Canadian Tire signing an 8 year contract with the Canadian Olympic Committee as a Primary National Sponsor. This is great news for Sport in Canada, from grass roots level to our Olympic athletes. It was great to see a private corporation, such as Canadian Tire, taking a leadership role in supporting Canadian athletes and sport programs.

My personal situation leading up to the London 2012 Olympic Games demonstrates how individuals, companies, and a community can come together to show their support and contribute in a variety of ways, and that the end result can have a significant impact for an athlete.

Here are some great examples from my experience in Calgary of how an athlete can be supported:


NOV Wilson (previously CE Franklin):


Goal: To support a group of Canadian Olympic Athletes that personify their operating code of conduct (including commitment to Excellence). Employing the Athletes as ambassadors for the organization and their core values both internally and in the community.

Strategy: Incorporating Athlete Ambassadors in corporate events and charity events. Naming each meeting room after an athlete with their photo on the wall and a quote that reinforces company operating values. Send out on-going updates by athletes to all employees.

Results: After coming back from the Olympics in Beijing, I attended a CE Franklin event and many of the employees came up to me glowing with excitement. They explained how amazing it was to be able to support an athlete (one of THEIR athletes) that they knew so well from the updates we’ve been sending. It totally changed the way they experienced watching the Olympics and some found them shouting at the TV cheering us on (in the office!) like they’ve never done before!








Jason Zaran, Owner of The Main Dish:

Goal: Being a big fan and supporter of amateur sport, Jason wanted to promote his values of healthy eating and healthy lifestyle while helping out local Olympic athletes.

Strategy: Mutually promote each other whenever we could via social media and attend charity events hosted by the restaurant (if it fit into our schedules). Jason had a wall in the restaurant that displayed framed photos of the athletes (fit, healthy-looking individuals) and our testimonials about the amazing food. In return, the athletes received free food (dream come true!)

Result: I felt like I was adopted into a family whenever I went to eat at the restaurant or to pick up food to take home. It was a very successful way for the Main Dish to give back to the community, supporting Olympic athletes in a very important way (eating well is priority #1 for athletes) while getting the word out there about the healthy & great tasting eat-in/take-home options the Main Dish provides.





Andy Nghi, Owner of Armour Projects:

Goal: Market his new supplement store Armour Projects, while helping out a local Olympic athlete.

Strategy: Host a fitness competition, advertising that all entry fees and additional donations will go towards supporting an Olympic Athlete.

Result: Andy’s event was a great success, providing me with much needed financial support and afterwards he sweetened the pot by offering to provide any supplements that I needed at no cost. I promoted his store on Facebook and signed a photo for his store. After the arrival of their baby girl that same year I was happy to drop off some of my daughter’s baby toys before we moved. Although I am now in the USA, Andy is still offering to ship my favourite supplements to me at no cost.


Martin Maherx, Owner of the Laurier Lounge:

Goal: to raise money for me and my family, after seeing an article in the newspaper about how I auctioned off my championship bib to raise money to bring my family to watch the Olympic Games.

Strategy: Martin advertised in his restaurant that for every lunch sold for the duration of the Olympic Games (2weeks) $1 would be donated to me and my family. He also put out a donation box for anyone who wanted to make their own personal donation.

Result: When we came home from London we were pleasantly surprised by the cheque Martin had waiting for us, with an invitation for my husband and me for a grand evening of food and wine at the Laurier Lounge. As it turned out, Martin’s act of kindness drew local media interest; providing his restaurant additional publicity above and beyond the (very accurate) glowing reviews about the food.


Bruce Bowser, CEO of AMJ Campbell:

Goal: To help two Olympians to relocate after living in Calgary for 10 years working with National team programs.

Strategy: I owe both Bruce Bowser and Michael Smith (former Olympic decathlete, and CBC track commentator) for this set up. At a charity event we all were attending, Michael introduced me to Bruce and explained my situation, and with no hesitation Bruce generously offered to move our belongings to Connecticut.

Result: Bruce said it would be a favour to Michael Smith, so I guess I owe Michael big time! The generosity of AMJ Campbell lifted an enormous amount of the stress of relocation from our shoulders. Our belongings arrived at our new place in Connecticut the day before Hurricane Sandy swept in. In thanking Bruce, I told him how comforting it was for me (and my daughter) to be able to sleep in our own beds while the hurricane passed though.



Goal: To help raise money to cover the expenses of getting my husband and daughter to London to watch me compete at the Olympics.

Strategy: Posted a Pay Pal link on my website before the Olympics.

Result: After the media covered the auctioning off my Olympic Trials bib to raise money, many listeners responded by making personal donations on my website. With many individuals donating whatever they could, it added up quickly and made a big difference to help cover the remaining expenses of getting my family to the Games. When I returned from London, I mailed out 40+ autographed cards across Canada to all those who donated.

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5 Responses to It Takes a Community to Raise an Athlete

  1. Well done Jessica! Great post to help show athletes (and supporters) the purpose and impact of different sponsors!

    • It really does make a huge difference for an athlete, as you know (BTW congrats on your latest sponsor, First Class Genetics!). There’s no doubt that there’s a desire for individuals/companies to be a part of our journeys. Sometimes it’s just a matter of starting the conversation, getting a better understanding of each other’s goals and expectations, and being a little creative!

  2. Thanks for sharing this post Jessica. Great examples for all athletes, from Olympians to grassroots. Great blend of fundraising, sponsorship and endorsement and love the way each campaign was laid out. Thank you and all the best for 2013!

  3. Congrats on all your accomplishments. A former Londoner living in Washington, DC I always enjoy keeping up. Keep pushing on and keeping your family close.

    Damian Walsh

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