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.”

Alexan­dre Bilodeau

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