Far from being pampered by taxpayers, as some wrongfully assume, most Canadian Olympians do not lead lavish lifestyles while training. Most live marginally when it comes to money, holding off on other civilian careers while pursuing their sporting ambitions.
That’s where CAN Fund, a private charity supporting Canadian Olympians, comes in. It has provided some of the financial fuel for their dreams and has raised $45 million over 18 years.
Among the beneficiaries this year are several of the Island athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics. They include Canadian softball infielder Emma Entzminger of Victoria and James Kirkpatrick of Victoria and former UVic Vikes stars Brenden Bissett, Keegan Pereira and Matt Sarmento of the Canadian men’s field-hockey team. Each received $6,000 on the eve of the Games before departing for Tokyo.
“This funding was needed because this year more than any other, we put our lives hold, because we were a year behind,” said Entzminger, about the personal financial ramifications of the one-year postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games due to the pandemic.
“This funding has made an impact among the 12 players on our Olympic [softball] team which received the grants.”
A new initiative, CAN Fund 150 Women, allows female donors to specifically request their donations go to female athletes.
“Most donors were predominately male. So we launched CAN Fund 150 Women in which women can donate $150 or more exclusively to women athletes and we knew women would step up,” said Jane Roos, who founded CAN Fund in 2003.
As a result, 314 Canadian women Olympians and future Olympic hopefuls received cheques this year for $6,000.
“Women supporting women athletes is pretty cool,” said Entzminger.
“It’s very empowering. It’s not just the money. It’s the notion of the female community supporting us in our Olympic journey.”
That journey has already begun for Entzminger as softball was the first Olympic sport to get started. Canada beat Mexico and lost to the U.S. on Wednesday, even before the opening ceremony on Friday.
CAN Fund has also given more than $1 million over nearly two decades to the Elk Lake-based Canadian Olympic rowing team members.
“Our money comes from people and corporations. There is no government funding,” said Roos.
“Our donors are from 18 to 85 and from every province. It shows our Olympians that Canadians have their backs and that someone believes in them and wants to support them and cares about them outside the 16 days of the Games.”