Around Town: Charity work comes to the fore

Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek would be the first admit he’s no Tiger Woods, but his limitations on the links didn’t keep him away from the Victoria Golf Club on Thursday.

The athlete and motivation speaker’s presence at the ninth annual Power to Golf Charity Classic was a no-brainer, benefiting as it does Power To Be, the outdoor adventure-therapy organization.

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This is the adventurer and social entrepreneur whose unsupported rowing trip across the Atlantic Ocean attracted global media coverage, and who also rowed around Vancouver Island, after all.

“Growing up I was lucky enough to have a father who took me and my brother out canoeing and camping, so I’m inclined towards outdoor adventure,” said Kreek, whose friend, Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield, introduced him to the organization that since 1998 has inspired youth and families living with barriers or disabilities through nature-based programs that improve social development and life skills.

The 8,000 participants assisted through its adapted programs include people living with mental or physical disabilities, at-risk youths and children on the autistic spectrum.

Last year 1,013 participants benefited from 429 programs, including Wilderness School, with the support of 5,836 volunteer hours and dozens of community partners.

Thirty-one teams of golfers including leading local philanthropists, athletes and business leaders raised a record-breaking $261,000 on Thursday, bringing to more than $1 million the tournaments have raised.

“There are a lot of people who don’t get the same opportunity for self-actualization you get in nature,” said Kreek.

“They create meaningful relationships with these kids and give them that empowerment that comes with challenging yourself in the wilderness. When you go into the wilderness, it has this effect of peeling off the layers and so your raw core is exposed.”

High-profile golfers included Victoria-born Colorado Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie, who quipped that being a good hockey player is no guarantee you’ll be a great golfer.

“It looks similar, the swings, but it’s very different mechanically, so it’s something I’ve been working on, but it’s not going so well,” the boyish NHLer said with a smile.

Executive director Tim Cormode said he’s continually amazed by how supportive the community has been in helping Power to Be offer inclusive and accessible recreation to youths and families.

“I think good charity practices can be recession-proof,” he said when asked whether he was concerned about the potential impact of last week’s stock market crisis.

“There are still people in need and there are individuals in this country who make that possible. When times are tough, that’s when you really have to roll up your sleeves and socks.”

He said it’s gratifying seeing firsthand how Power to Be’s programs give families who need support but often don’t know where to turn “the resilience to face adversity” and overcome obstacles.

He attributed the organization’s success to “very good and strong governance” and because “people seem to love what we do.”

The golf tournament, which was followed by a private reception emceed by Kreek and media personality Fred Lee at Peter and Ali Gustavson’s home, the Atrium at Little Oaks, also started a new conversation.

“We need to find a way to optimize our resources and continue to be nimble,” said Cormode, whose team’s new strategic vision includes building a home, perhaps on donated or leased land, for Power to Be.

“It would be a place where health and education are better serviced, a centre that addresses a variety of needs in the community. We’re just starting to let people know we’re looking.”

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