When Canadian skier Nancy Greene retired from competitive racing in 1968, she was just 24-years-old and had just won a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
At that time, amateur athletes were not allowed to earn sponsorship money, but Greene knew she could leverage the gold medal into sponsorship dollars.
She left the competitive slopes behind and embarked on a promotional career signing one of her first official contracts with a phone company known then as BC Tel.
So it was fitting Thursday in Kelowna that Nancy Greene-Raine, now a Canadian senator and still a Canadian sports legend, introduced the new Telus Thompson Okanagan Community Board, a fundraising initiative that will hand out $300,000 a year to community groups in the Thompson-Okangan.
“It’s almost like I’ve come full circle,” said Greene-Raine after the announcement. “For me personally, it’s a wonderful experience to be involved in making a difference.”
Greene-Raine will act as chair of the Thompson-Okanagan Community Board, a group that will review funding proposals and be in charge of handing out $100,000 for the balance of 2011 and $300,000 each year after that to groups with a focus on youth and technology.
Business and community leaders from Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Osoyoos and Kamloops will make decisions on who will be granted money, handing out between $1,000 and $20,000 to deserving projects.
While any project may get funding, the board is hoping it can work with projects aimed at youth.
“This is a very exciting day for youth in the community,” said Steven Jenkins, a Telus regional manager.
“When you take a look at this board we’ve all sat on boards that have provided specific funding for youth.
“We now have the opportunity to leverage relationships the board has in these communities and put the funds back into the youth in these communities.”
While the community board will be looking at projects for and by youth, the youngest member of the community board is wheelchair athlete Josh Dueck, of Vernon, who comes in around 30.
To that end, the board is holding a position for a young person between the ages of 17 and 24.
Greene-Raine says having a young person on the board will be invaluable.
“Some of us are grey-haired and retired so we have some time,” she said with a smile.
“But we really do want to be connected to young people.”
The Telus Thompson Okanagan Community Board becomes the 11th Telus community board in Canada and third in B.C. with the others being in Vancouver and Victoria.
“I look forward to getting to know more about all of these organizations,” said Greene-Raine.
“There is a process in place that makes it easy for us to use our knowledge and make decisions. It’s fantastic.”
For more information, to apply for funds or contact the board go to www.telus.com/community and follow the steps to the Thompson-Okanagan Community Board.