Two Canadian athletes from different worlds met on Saturday due to a combination of the best and the worst of human nature.
Olympic cross-country ski champion Beckie Scott, who is the CEO of Spirit North, was told by a colleague on Tuesday of a sudden increase in donations to the organization, which works with Indigenous children to give them confidence, skills. in leadership and physical health through sport.
Twenty-five donations flooded the organization’s website in half an hour “which is very unusual,” Scott told The Canadian Press on Saturday from Canmore, Alta.
“We were really stumped,” Scott said. “We had not yet connected the dots.”
Reports that Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear was the target of racism began to surface the same day.
Bear confirmed in a video statement the next day that he was subjected to “racist behavior on social media” after Edmonton was eliminated from the first round of the NHL playoffs in four straight games by the Winnipeg Jets. .
“I’m here to resist this behavior, these comments,” Bear said during the statement. “I am proud of where I come from, I am proud to be from the Ochapowace First Nation.
READ MORE: Support Flows in for Oilers’ Bear after alleged racist comments on social media
Spirit North’s donations have climbed to nearly $ 10,000 in 24 hours. Donors have indicated in online messages that the contributions are owed to Bear, Scott said.
“It was very heartwarming to receive this support,” Bear told The Canadian Press. “It shows that people care. I believe I did the right thing.
“It’s really good to see the support from everyone who supports me and everything that we are going through.”
WATCH: Rally for Edmonton Oilers player Ethan Bear
Bear was a child who grew up in the Ochapowace Nation of Saskatchewan when Scott won gold and silver in Olympic cross-country skiing in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
Scott received her gold medal two years after her 2002 race. She finished third, but the contestants who beat her were ultimately disqualified for performance enhancing doping.
Founded in 2009, Spirit North offers Indigenous youth in 62 communities ranging from Ontario to British Columbia to the Northwest Territories the chance to ski, mountain bike, canoe and to try other sports.
Half of the organization’s board members are Indigenous, and charities are guided by an Indigenous advisory board.
On her first trip to a northern Alberta school to host a cross-country ski session, Scott says she saw an eight-year-old boy move from hiding in a cardboard box in the principal’s office to throw his arms in the air and laugh after skiing. on a slope.
“The manager turned to me and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve heard him laugh,’ Scott said.
WATCH: ‘Unacceptable and disgusting’: Support pouring in for Oilers’ Bear after racist comments on social media
Scott, 46, and Bear, 23, did not pass each other until Bear’s agent arranged a virtual meeting on Saturday.
“I think it’s amazing. I didn’t really know Spirit North before that, ”said Bear. “It attracted a lot of interest to me. I am really interested in what she has to offer for the future.
Bear played two seasons for the Oilers. He wore a jersey with his name written in Cree during an exhibition game against the Calgary Flames last July.
Scott’s initial reaction to an increase in donations was that she wanted to talk to Bear.
“She is the most important person who needs to know that these gifts have come in her honor,” she said.
“Ethan is a current athlete and I am a former athlete. We both have lived experience of the benefits and values that sport can bring to someone’s life.
“Some children in this country don’t have the chance to experience this. This is unacceptable, so we are very aligned with our values and are determined to try to change that. “
Spirit North’s annual operating budget is $ 2 million, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made fundraising difficult, Scott said.
“It has been a difficult year for us,” she said. “Ten thousand dollars is really a lot at the moment.”