Kids pitch in with funding

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:57 AM ET

Ian Chamandy spent a good deal of last August on the couch, watching the Athens Olympics with his son, Aidan.

Aidan was seven, just old enough to start appreciating the Games. No matter the question, Dad was right there with the answer.

Except for the one about why Canadian athletes fared so poorly.

"There was so much angst in the country about the allegedly poor performance and how we fund our athletes," Chamandy said. "I thought about how easy it would be for people to fundraise directly for athletes and develop a relationship with the athlete. I thought, 'Why won't people do it?' Then I thought, 'Why don't I?' "

It turns out ... no reason at all.

Chamandy phoned Canadian sports associations to gain a list of suitable athletes. A freestyle skier named Warren Tanner fit on a number of levels. Being from Grimsby, right by Hamilton, Tanner was relatively local. Freestyle skiing is a glamour sport to kids and Tanner was taken by the idea of working with youth.

And so Warren Tanner will meet his 60 or so patrons at Toronto's McMurrich Junior Public School today.

At 24, he's a little old for adoption, but adopted he will be, by Kamla Rambara and Leslie Ann McCollin's Grade 3 classes. They even have a certificate to sign and $852.55 to hand over for Tanner's training. They raised most of the money by selling popcorn they made at home and hocked at the school's winter concert.

"It basically means a plane ticket somewhere," Tanner said, "but you don't get involved in something like this just for financial reasons. The chance to interact with the kids is the main thing."

So far, Tanner has e-mailed from Japan and points all over Europe. He has quizzed the kids on the site of the 1994 Winter Games and invited them to follow him on his travels around the globe. He filled them in on the Louvre and told them how reindeers often wander into a Finnish town he visited.

"Getting involved with a Canadian athlete really appealed to the children," said Ms. Rambara. "We can infuse the curriculum with meaning for the children. It becomes homework for them to see how he does on the weekends he's competing. It's great to see the kids so enthused about Canada and to learn about the training and commitment it takes to be an Olympic athlete."

The spin-off benefits are legion. The kids learn they can be actively involved in helping and observe the preparation and dedication necessary for high achievement. They learn about good health and fitness. They use their math skills to add up their funds, their art skills to publicize the popcorn sale and a ticket raffle.

Chamandy works in PR. He has set up a website, www.adoptanathlete.ca. He is hopeful of spreading the plan through the Toronto school board next season. His goals are 25 sponsored athletes by next winter in Turin, 200 for Beijing in 2008 and 500 when the Games return to Canada in British Columbia in 2010.

By then, Warren Tanner might not be in the game any more but the need for help is sadly impossible to extinguish. Mercifully, so is the inexhaustible goodwill of children.


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