Olympians Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau donate $25,000 apiece to charity
VANCOUVER — Olympic freestyle skiing champion Alexandre Bilodeau calls older brother Frederic his source of inspiration.
Now, Bilodeau is doing his part to return the favour.
The gold medallist in moguls announced Wednesday he’s donating $25,000 to the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres in support of research into cerebral palsy.
For Bilodeau, the donation is a very personal one. Frederic was born with cerebral palsy and doctors said he would be in a wheelchair for life. But Frederic has proved them wrong, still walking and skiing at age 28. He was one of the first to greet Alexandre after he won gold.
Bilodeau’s moguls teammate Jennifer Heil, who won silver in the women’s event at the Vancouver Winter Games, is also doing her part to give back, donating $25,000 to Because I Am A Girl. The foundation helps girls in underprivileged countries.
The 22-year-old Bilodeau, who captured Canada’s first-ever gold medal on home soil Feb. 14, said growing up with Frederic taught him a lot about keeping things in perspective.
“ When I was younger, I had to jump in the car and get to a school where there were so many people with cerebral palsy,” said Bilodeau. “The only thing (the students) could move was their head or their neck ... but they had a smile. They were enjoying life probably more than anyone else. And this was a big lesson that I learned.”
Bilodeau noted his donation would be used primarily toward children in need.
“My dad talked to a doctor, and he says that’s where we can do the most for people that have cerebral palsy,” said Bilodeau.
Heil’s charity is geared toward providing women in poorer countries with education. The 2006 Olympic champion said she couldn’t have reached the Game3s without plenty of help — and she would like to provide the same opportunities to those less fortunate.
“I’ve always felt as though I had the power in my own hands to build a future I could imagine,” said Heil. “And I hope that there can be many millions of girls that can have the same power in their own hands. And I believe the best way to achieve that is through education.”
As medallists, both athletes received cash bonuses from the Canadian Olympic Committee, but their donations will not be deducted from those winnings. They say they had intended to make a donation even before reaching the podium. And while not every amateur athlete has the means to make such a sizeable contribution, Bilodeau pointed out that he and Heil were in a good position to do so.
“ We’re fortunate that we’re pretty wealthy now, and we had pretty wealthy parents, too,” said Bilodeau. “Obviously it’s not all athletes that have that chance.
“That’s the least we can do. We have that chance to give back, and why not?” Heil agreed. “ We really feel a responsibility from everything we’ve received,” said Heil. “It is a big donation, but we know that it’s only a small part of what these foundations need to go around.”