WinSport barbecue adds thousands of dollars to relief fund for fellow Albertans in crisis

Canadian speed skating Olympic gold medallists Catriona Le May Doan and Denny Morrison joined a line of WinSport staff outside the Markin MacPhail Centre on May 6 to serve hamburgers and raise funds for families victimized by the Fort McMurray wildfires.

For Morrison, the opportunity to help serve the community in this way is important. Just last year, Morrison broke a femur in a motorcycle accident, and on April 23 of this year, suffered a stroke.

Catriona Le May Doan, world champion athlete, motivational speaker, and author of Going for Gold, collects donations at a fundraising barbecue sponsored by WinSport on May 6. Photo by Deanna TuckerMorrison said the people who gave their time and resources after his accident last year taught him the importance of helping each other in times of need.

According to Morrison, the support of others has “made a big difference” in his recovery. When he asked his supporters how he could repay them, they simply said to “pay it forward instead.”

Events like this barbecue are just one small way he can pay forward the kindness and support he’s received while he recovers.

Jason McKay, WinSport’s director of food and beverage/sales, organized this fundraising lunch within a few days of hearing the devastating news of the Fort McMurray fires. Photo by Deanna TuckerThe area around Fort McMurray has been reeling since May 1, when residents were first warned to prepare for possible evacuation due to a growing wildfire. The fire spread quickly, eventually forcing over 88,000 people to flee the city. Premier Rachel Notley said, as of May 6, that the fire spread 101,000 hectares.

Other officials noted, on May 6, that the wildfire was moving northeast, away from Fort McMurray, but the crisis was not yet over, because of the unpredictability of wildfires, and the massive size of this one in particular.

Jason McKay, WinSport’s director of food and beverage/sales, said his life was changed after helping WinSport welcome over 500 people into its facilities during the southern Alberta floods of 2013. When he heard about the wildfires, he was determined to find a way to help Fort McMurray residents through their own struggle. WinSport, also known as the Winter Sports Institute, is located on the western edge of Calgary, at Canada Olympic Park.

“Every dollar helps,” McKay said. “If 50 people show up to support the event, it would be enough.”

Volunteers, supporters and community members joined Morrison, Le May Doan, the Speed Skating Canada team and WinSport staff in the long line up for barbecue grub. In less than two hours, over 300 burgers were sold and more than $4,300 was raised.

World champion athlete Denny Morrison (left) and WinSport President and CEO Barry Heck man the barbecue, grateful for community support in times of tragedy like the Fort McMurray wildfire. Photo by Deanna Tucker“I put my sport hat on today,” Le May Doan said of her supporting the event alongside her sporting community. To her, it was great to see the community coming out to support such a great cause.

WinSport covered the cost of the barbecue, which means 100 per cent of the $4,300 will go directly to the Red Cross in support of the Fort McMurray wildfire relief effort.

Red Cross Canada is accepting donations online or by phone, with all individual donations being matched by the federal government.

Call toll-free 1-800-418-1111 or visit www.redcross.ca/fort-mcmurray-fires for more information.

dtucker@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Michaela Ritchie, mritchie@cjournal.ca