Every kid deserves a chance.
So says Manny Osborne-Paradis (Vancouver, BC) who has helped co-found a skiing camp with fellow national downhill skiing teammate Mike Janyk (Whistler, BC). The Mike and Manny Foundation provides underprivileged kids with the opportunity to ski with two of Canada’s best while having all their expenses paid for.
With National Volunteer Week commencing, Janyk’s and Osborne-Paradis’s selfless acts of giving back to the community earned them a Canadian Olympic Team nod as athletes of the week.
“We had some great help in our careers from some key people,” said Janyk, a two-time Olympian. “We saw that we were at a point where we could afford to give back and we came up with this idea for a camp.”
Six years after starting the camp, the two “Canadian Cowboys” have seen it grow from the initial eight campers in the first year – which included only skiers from B.C. – to the 16 they now host from across the country.
Each potential applicant is asked to fill out an essay format questionnaire and submit it with a coach’s reference. Once selected, each young skier has an all-expenses paid, four-day stay in Whistler, BC — not to mention the opportunity to learn from two athletes with World Championship and World Cup podiums to their names. The campers are those who come from families struggling to finance the high-cost sport of ski racing.
“Skiing has gotten so expensive over the years,” said Osborne-Paradis, also a two-time Olympian. “It sucks to see kids who thrive on sport not being able to achieve their goals because of financial restraints.”
Some of the campers are the best skiers in the country for their age. Others might not have a competitive future, but bring high passion for the sport.
The full extent of what they’re giving back to the community didn’t really hit Janyk until a disappointing showing at the Vancouver Games gave him some perspective.
“I came down and finished 13th and I was not happy,” said Janyk. “I was looking for a medal and I was really bummed. I was walking through the crowd and I had four or five parents stop to tell me that their kid came to camp and it changed their life. They still talk about it. I was close to tears after my run and performance because I was devastated. Hearing that brought perspective for the first time as far as what we are doing.”
The two hope for the foundation to continue growing and give back to the community in the form of high-performance bursaries and helping the underprivileged and inner-city kids get involved in skiing — but they can’t do it alone. The pair give high praise to fellow coaches Johnny Crichton and Nick Cooper, as well as Jane Osborne – Manny’s mom – who does all the cooking during the four-day experience.
The camp concludes this year on April 20 and the two skiers will get one day off before heading to a three week training block to continue going after their dreams: preparation for Sochi 2014.
“(The camp) is about trying to be your best and going after your dreams,” said Janyk. “It’s about showing the love of the sport and it goes both ways.”
– George Fadel