BOW VALLEY – Banff is about to become Canada’s hub for para-alpine athlete development after a major commitment to a local organization.
Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA), a local charity that removes barriers in sport and recreation for those living with physical and cognitive disabilities, is starting Canada’s first full-time development team dedicated to para-alpine athletes after receiving significant funding this month.
“We’ve been recognized and supported to take the training further,” said Jamie McCulloch, RMA executive director. “We’ll be running a full-time para-alpine program, five days a week with a full-time coach. Athletes from here will go on and represent national teams and we’re really excited about that.”
RMA received funding from the 2019 Para Sport Jumpstart Fund, which came from a partnership between the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. This year, The Para Sport Jumpstart Fund dedicated $800,000 to more than 40 organizations.
In RMA’s decade of removing sport and recreation barriers, it’s at the point where athletes are excelling in para-alpine events, some having competed at the Canada Winter Games.
“Not only are we getting the support to facilitate the growth, we feel confident we can produce after being recognized by Jumpstart and their Para Sport funds, which has the support of Canadian Paralympic Committee,” McCulloch said.
“They believe we’re able to have the skillset and resources to provide that [development team] option in Canada and goal training to obtain it for a long time.”
The program begins in November at Sunshine Village in Banff National Park, and RMA is currently seeking a full-time coach to run the development team. There are only two other programs of its calibre in North America, both being in the United States.
McCulloch said the aim is for the development team to become nationally recognized and said interest has already spurred from across the country.
The resources needed to achieve this team are substantial, which is why the Para Sport grant to RMA – which wasn’t disclosed – massively helps with operating the program.
“Jumpstart believes kids of all abilities should experience the joy, and countless benefits of participating in sport and recreation,” said Scott Fraser, President, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, in a press release. “We are proud to continue providing opportunities for kids across Canada to get involved in para sport thanks to our partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee.”
Brittany Hudak, a two-time paralympian who trains out of Canmore, praised the donation on Twitter.
"It's great to see (Canadian Tire Jumpstart) and (Canadian Paralympics) further investing in people with all abilities to have opportunities in sport," she tweeted.
RMA has over 20 sports and recreational activities available across the Bow Valley year-round with specialized equipment and programming.
On top of being able to upstart the para-alpine development team, the funding RMA received also allows growth in other areas, such as volunteer/instructor training, outreach initiatives and free to try programs.
“In short, [the funds gives us] ... the ability to go out in the community around Calgary and surrounding areas, so we can do the educational bit and highlight what is available in adaptive alpine sports,” McCulloch said.
“Where we’re looking at being able to increase our outreach and programing and number of people, we need to make sure we’re building on great skill structure,” McCulloch said. “Another part of that grant is training new instructors and volunteers for teaching the vast amount of individuals, their specific needs, safe fun and an experience that blows their mind.”