Can't decide what to give?

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

I'm not buying my husband a Christmas gift this year. He's not getting me one either. Great!

There are times I'm sarcastic, but this isn't one of them. We came up with this arrangement a few years ago after flailing about trying to find each other suitable gifts.

That's when the stress-free idea of giving back to our former McGill University varsity sports teams -- rowing and track -- occurred to us and made sense. I'm so grateful for those formative years -- and vividly remember being broke, too. So now a yearly positive ritual is accomplished by a few clicks online, with a credit card, to make a difference to the next generation of athletes.

SCALE BACK ON CRAP

This year, with thrift ringing in all our ears, why not scale back the amount of crap coming in to your home and instead contribute to sport? Ask someone planning to buy you a gift to make a donation on your behalf. Here are a few worthwhile causes.

The Canadian Athletes Now Fund's new "Donate Your Sport Number" campaign is asking all Canadians to donate their sport number to raise direct support for Canadian amateur athletes. With every donation, in addition to getting a tax receipt, donors are told the name of which Canadian athlete they're helping.

"Parents can print up the certificate provided on our site (www.CanadianAthletesNow.ca) and include it under the tree, and then the children can Google the athlete and find out more about who they supported," said fund founder Jane Roos, always creative with her ideas.

RECYCLE EQUIPMENT

You also can recycle sport equipment. According to Alpine Ontario, if you have old downhill ski equipment in relatively good shape, it can be used. Many kids who cannot afford to buy new equipment or never have skied before will use the equipment. It can be dropped off at Skiis and Bikes stores in Mississauga or in Collingwood, who have agreed to add to the cause. Or ask your local school or rec centre what sports equipment they accept.

Sending equipment overseas is too costly, so consider a $25 soccer ball for a child in Colombia through Plan Canada at www.plancanada.ca (click on catalogue to find it). A school's supply of soccer balls costs $250.

The international humanitarian organization Right To Play kicked off its 2008 holiday giving campaign yesterday with an online auction on eBay. The campaign is supported by many of Right To Play's athlete ambassadors, including the Raptors' Jose Calderon, Toronto FC and numerous Beijing 2008 Olympians. Right To Play's mission is to improve the lives of children in the most disadvantaged areas of the world through the power of sport and play for development, health and peace. The auction has more than 60 items and runs until Monday at www.ebay.com/righttoplay.

Instead of giving a gift card, how about a $20 Quest For Gold lottery ticket? Proceeds from the provincial lottery go to support amateur athletes in Ontario through direct athlete assistance, enhanced coaching, training and competitive opportunities. The funding encourages athletes to stay in Ontario to live and train.

Since the lottery's launch in 2006, $23 million in funding has been generated to help approximately 8,000 athletes, some of whom participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in Beijing. Tickets are available at convenience stores.

As for athletes with a disability, did you know that their sports equipment costs up to 10 times as much as equipment for able-bodied athletes? A basic basketball wheelchair costs $5,000, a sledge for hockey is $2,000 and an introductory racing wheelchair is $10,000. Makes hockey skates look cheap in comparison.

"Children grow out of sport wheelchairs very quickly because you have to be held in the chair," said Barry Winfield, president of the Canadian Paralympic Foundation. "It's a custom-molded chair."

The foundation accepts donations for grassroots disabled sport, as well as the Soldier On program for injured military members, at www.paralympic.ca.

The Canadian Olympic Foundation (www.olympicfoundation.ca) offers fans the chance to sign their names to an e-card that will be sent to Canada's Olympic athletes on Dec. 23. Donors also are thanked with a Canadian Olympic pin and Olympic pocket calendar to count down the days to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

Happy giving.


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