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A lifetime of inspiration: how we can all ignite a passion for sport

Olympian Evan Dunfee reflects on his most recent sources of inspiration

This week I have felt my most profound sense of loss and my greatest sense of accomplishment. On the one hand, I had to say goodbye to my dear Nana, who at 100 years old left this world having achieved everything she wanted to. On the other, I wrapped up my KidSport fundraising campaign, completing my 26th school talk. I was able to share my story and passion for sport with over 8,400 students, and together we raised more than $20,000 to ensure more kids will get to experience a life-changing season of sport.

My brother Adam, Nana and me

As I’ve reflected on this past month the word that keeps resonating with me is ‘inspiring.’ Whether five years old or 100, every single one of us has the power to inspire.

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We all fall into at least one of the following categories: child, parent, or grandparent. And within each one of those categories we can ignite a passion in those around us. This month I’ve seen first-hand the wisdom, the naivete, the strength and the passion that is displayed across that spectrum of life.

My Nana lived for sport. It’s the only thing I ever saw her watch on TV, and her passion was infectious. As my babysitter growing up, she passed her passion on to me and became my biggest fan in the process. While not particularly sporty herself, she lived an active life and became my role model for living a healthy lifestyle.

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The inspiration Nana gave me was simple. Her unwavering belief in my crazy dreams helped me believe they were possible. She always said she walked every step of my races with me, and that motivation helps push me through tough spots in races.

She was so proud of the campaign I was doing for KidSport, and would tell me how awesome it was to be inspiring kids. At the outset that was really how I viewed it–by sharing my story, I was connecting with kids. I had no idea how much inspiration I’d end up getting from them.

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The best example is Phoebe. I was foam-rolling after wrapping up a particularly tough 25K day, during which I raced the Turkey Trot 10K. This girl waltzed over to me with an inquisitive smile on her face, plopped herself down beside me and started foam-rolling too, mimicking my moves. That smile, that unbridled love of play, lifted me up and reminded me who I was doing this for, and gave me strength that I carried through the rest of the campaign.

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I hope in those 8,400 students I was able to inspire at least a few. But from the kids who stayed after, simply to tell me their stories of why they love sport and of the friendships they’ve made, or the few that confided in me that they were KidSport recipients and wanted to give back, those students inspired and motivated me, just like Nana did.

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What I’ve learned in these past few months is that no matter who you are, your passion is inspiring. We should all wear that passion as a badge of honour, knowing that to someone we are a role model. It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing down records, or are simply my grandmother yelling at the Canucks on TV, you have a story that can change someone’s life.