As if winning an Olympic Medal for the country is not enough, Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau use their athletic success to contribute to the greater good of society. Both of these athletes were inspired in some way by some one, and they were helped so much on the road to their success that they thought it was only right to now give back to the world.
Jennifer Heil has started the effort in making these the most giving Games by donating $25 000 to "Because I am a Girl" which is a charity that helps girls rise above poverty. Heil's inspirations have been Clara Hughes and Johann Koss who have both made major contributions to the greater good of society. Jenn stated today that she would love it if every athlete could contribute; she also said she is a strong believer in the thinking that if everybody does a little bit, it can make a huge difference. Now Jenn's donations is no little amount, but she said it is the least she can do after all that everybody has done for her throughout her career. She said that one of her biggest inspirations was her parents who drove her and her sister 8 hours every weekend so they could train with the Alberta provincial ski team. Heil's hopes with this campaign was to get other athletes on board and start a new trend with successful athletes, and this is exactly what she did, she has got her teammate and great friend Alexandre Bilodeau to match her donation to the organization of his choice.
For Alexandre Bilodeau, he said he would not have been standing on that podium if it weren't for his older brother Frederic who has inspired him so much. Bilodeau said that his brother was the reason he has stayed with this sport throughout all these years. So inspired by his teammate Jennifer Heil he has decided to donate $25 000 to the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres in support of research into cerebral palsy. "The reaction of my brother after that gold medal run was the most rewarding moment of my life", Bilodeau said. He feels that after all everyone has done for him, it's the least he could do. "My brother Frederic is still beaming with joy, and that's the greatest gift I could ever ask for."
As if those two athletes were not great enough, next out on stage was Canada's newest gold medalist at the time; Ashleigh McIvor. It had only been a number of hours since I was watching her gold medal run on TV and now she is sitting in front of my eyes. McIvor talked about the feeling of competing at home, and how she is normally not a superstitious person, but in this past season she has been carrying a Buddha doll around in her ski jacket. It had brought her good luck for the last few months, so why change things right before the biggest race of her life. Tanya Shum, one of the other girls from Students Live asked Ashleigh what her mindset is when she's standing at the top of the hill, are you thinking 'I'm going to win this race' of are you thinking 'I'm going to go out there and do my best'? Ashleigh replied with "As I stand at the starting gate I'm just thinking that I'm going to try my best, because that is really all I can do. The results will just come, and I have no controll over how others do, I just have to do my best." And luckily her best was good enough for the gold, which raised Canada's gold count up to 6! I then asked McIvor what it meant to her to be the first woman ever to win gold in the sport of ski cross, and what it felt to win it at home. Her answer was simple "Too amazing for words." She said that it felt so great to walk into BC Place Stadium last night and not even being able to hear her name being called because the fans were so ecstatic. And finally a reporter asked Ashleigh if she was planning on making any sorts of contributions to a charity like Heil and Bilodeau are doing. Her reply was "To be honest I haven't thought about it at all, I'm still celebrating." she also said "I haven't even has a chance to sit back and think about what has happened, it still seems unreal to me."
For me this Press Conference (my very fisrt one actually) was very inspirational; these athletes have been inspired by others to give back to society, and I have been inspired by them! To be witnessing the effort of making these the most giving Games is so remarkable. Indeed these Games will go down in history for being the most green, and the most giving! But in reality, you don't have to be an Olympian in order to make a difference, and that is the message that these athletes were trying to convey, 'anyone can be the difference in this world'.
For more information on Jennifer Heil's organizaion visit www.becauseiamagirl.ca
and for more information on the charity Alexandre Bilodeau is donating to, visit www.caphc.org