Medicine Hat News

Olympic cross-country skier Beckie Scott helping Indigenous kids through sports

- GEMMA KARSTENS-SMITH

Olympic champion Beckie Scott never imagined herself running a non-profit after retiring from competitiv­e crosscount­ry skiing.

As Canada’s most-decorated cross-country skier, she simply knew firsthand the power and value that sports hold.

“I have the lived feel of coming out on the other side of sport with life feel and skill sets and connection­s to opportunit­ies I would never have access to otherwise,” said Scott, who has a gold medal from the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and a silver from Turin in 2006.

“I just think it’s such a beautiful platform to share, especially or particular­ly with young people who are marginaliz­ed or vulnerable.”

Scott has been doing just that, helping Indigenous kids across Canada experience sports and outdoor activities as founder and CEO of Spirit North.

Her journey began after she retired in 2006 and was invited to be an ambassador for a program working with Indigenous communitie­s in Northern Alberta. When she visited for the first time, Scott was struck by what she saw.

“I was really moved by the inequality and the disparity of opportunit­y that I saw there while, in parallel, being really inspired by the feel of watching and being with the kids while they learned the sport and were given the opportunit­y to take part in sport and activities,” she explained.

Scott took on her current role at Spirit North in 2017 and has helped the organizati­on balloon from serving about 400 children in four locations to more than 6,000 kids in 63 locations.

The program is set to grow yet again after receiving a $5,000 OLY Canada legacy grant on Friday. OLY is the status the World Olympians Associatio­n gives to athletes who have competed in the Games.

Spirit North is one of 10 projects awarded grants this year, each championed by a former Olympian. The awards are doled out annually and the number of recipients was doubled this year, with more than half of the selected projects working with the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour communitie­s.

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