It would be hard to imagine a more inspiring time for young Canadian athletes than this past week in Tokyo. First, it was Andre de Grasse winning gold in the 200, followed by Damian Warner, who overcame "makeshift training facilities" to become Canada's first-ever decathlon champion. Then early Friday morning we held our breath as Vancouver's Julia Grosso, just 20 years old, scored the decisive penalty kick to bring Canadian women soccer gold.
Andre de Grasse sprinted to the first of his three Olympic medals the previous Sunday evening, winning bronze in the 100-metre final, duplicating the achievement of Harry Jerome in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Following the race, de Grasse acknowledged Jerome's legacy with these words:
"Harry Jerome is an inspiration to Canada. I hope that I can be like him one day."
I have no doubt that thousands of young Canadians will be inspired by the sacrifice and determination of de Grasse and all our Canadian Olympians, but I believe that our community needs to do more to ensure that our children and youth have a safe place on which to run, train, and practice. For more than five years, a small volunteer committee has been working to raise the funds that are required to build the West Vancouver Place for Sport, a much-needed athletic facility designed to serve the entire North Shore. In February, it was announced that the running track, a key feature of this facility, would be named Harry Jerome Oval.
We look forward to the day when our youth can pause from their activity at the Place for Sport to take inspiration from the words of Nelson Mandela that will be included on the plaque honouring Harry Jerome: "Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got up again."
The capital campaign is going well, with just under $3.7 million raised, but the finish line is still some distance away. We invite you to join the almost 400 citizens and families who have donated generously to the Place for Sport. Building a project of this scope without financial support from all three levels of government is a challenge, but we are grateful for the substantial commitment of funds made by West Vancouver's mayor and council, Park Royal, the Onni Group, the West Vancouver Football Club, the West Vancouver Foundation, West Vancouver Schools, and the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club. Special thanks are due to the North Shore News for their ongoing sponsorship.
Valerie Jerome said it best: "Young people don't get to the start line, let alone the finish line, without infrastructure and the support of their community. The West Van Place for Sport and Harry Jerome Oval need our financial support right now."
This important new facility will be home to the only competitive track on the North Shore, and will provide an additional playing field on which the thousands of girls and boys who enjoy soccer can practice year round. Should you wish to help in any way, please contact the West Vancouver Foundation (westvanfoundation.ca).
Geoff Jopson is a member of the West Vancouver Place for Sport capital campaign committee, an active volunteer and longtime resident of West Vancouver. Following a distinguished career in the public sector, he retired as superintendent of schools for West Vancouver in 2011.