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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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Dear Nana, My first memories of being at a track have nothing to do with running or competing. My first memories at a track are with you sitting on the bleachers at Minoru happily watching me play in the long jump pit and pretending to eat the mud cakes I made you. I loved those moments. You were my number one fan, always walking every step of my races alongside me. You were a catalyst for my life long love of sport and your unwavering belief in my dreams allowed me to believe in them too. You lived an amazingly full life and I feel so lucky to have gotten to grow up so close to you. You gave this world way more than you ever took and you’re leaving behind such an immense amount of good. It’s now up to me, to everyone whose lives you touched, to carry that good on as we go forward. You got to watch all of your grandchildren grow up and follow their passions and while you never got to see me get married, which I know you dearly wanted, I promise that the first question I’ll ask myself will be, ‘would Nana like her?’ I know that you are so proud of all of us, though in your humility never would have imagined how much of a role you played in shaping us. Your legacy will continue on as we pass down the lessons you instilled in us. Looking at your beautiful and amazing great grandchildren it is clear that that legacy is safe for at least a hundred more years. I will think about you all the time and carry your memory with me in every race, every step of the way. I love you so much and thank you for absolutely everything.

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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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25 days. 640km. 5 schools (20 more to come). Over 900,000 steps. 15 @endurance_tap gels. 2 pairs of #freshfoamzante. 3 bags of @stokedoats. 30ish @nuunhydration tablets. 2 @cieleathletics hats given away to people who fancied them. Only 3 days of rain. 100s of emails. Over $10,000 raised (so far). ••• 1 goal: give more kids the chance to experience sport. ••• Thank you to everyone who helped by donating, sharing or just sending me your positivity these last 25 days. I’m now looking forward to sharing my story with 20 more schools over the fall. Each of those schools are fundraising in their own right for @kidsportbc to help children in their communities. If I can leave those kids with one message, it will be to find what you’re passionate about and use it to help others. It’s an amazing and powerful feeling!

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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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Dream it. Think it. Live it. That’s the motto of Kingswood Elementary, where my Olympic dream began. From a dream it became a goal and from a goal it became a reality. ••• Therefore it was a no brainer that Kingswood would be the 1st of 25 schools I’d talk to as part of my @kidsportbc campaign. Enticed by the promise that if they raised $1000 they could pie Principal Manning in the face, the kids were off. Only once they reached $1000 did they learn that I too had agreed to be pied in the face. ••• First and foremost today was about having fun. But I’m overwhelmed by the thought that I may be inspiring kids to Dream, right where my dream began. Not only that, these kids went above and beyond, raising over $1200, meaning several more kids in Richmond will get to experience a life changing season of sport where no doubt more dreams will blossom. ••• It’s an amazing feeling when our actions can lift someone up, and when we can all come together to lift each other up, that is truly what community is all about.

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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.