During last week’s small but intimate press conference that was held in CDN/NDG borough’s MAB-MacKay Center, local Olympic freestyle champion Alexandre Bilodeau told his audience that his brother Fédéric continues to inspire him to do whatever he can for children with special needs all over the country. Aside from his own success as a world-class athlete, he said that it was his brother’s stoic strength in the face of a major disability (cerebral palsy) that inspired him to do whatever he could to make sure that children with disabilities could enjoy sports like everybody else.
“I’ve seen children who couldn’t talk,” said Bilodeau, “…but once they start doing sports, they start talking. It’s crazy but it’s true,” he said. “Once you let the kids begin to work on their own dreams, it’s amazing to see what they can achieve.”
Following his retirement from competitive sports two years ago, Bilodeau decided to accept his present position at the head of what is now known as the Alexandre Bilodeau Fund in order to raise the money required to finance adapted sports programs for children with special needs. As the Centre’s present programs risked being scaled back because of assorted budget cuts in the province’s health care and social services sector, Bilodeau recognized that something had to be done to help protect the adapted sports programs that are so important for the children who need them the most.
“They feel they can do something, be a part of a group...which is often so difficult for these children because they are so often left out of normal sports activities,” said Elizabeth Coutu – a physiotherapist who works at the centre. “When they’re doing sports, they feel like they’re a part of something…a part of the team.”
As documents indicate that it’s going to cost at least a million to properly fund the center’s adapted sports programs over the next decade, Bilodeau’s fund is only $80 000 short of its goal thanks to a $500 000 donation from the city’s Rossy family who were at the press conference.
“We were so inspired by Alexandre’s passion ,” said Stephanie Rossy-Beauchamps, “…that the decision to create a matching gift program was an easy one for us.”
As one of the directors of the Rossy Family Foundation, she said that “…it feels great to help these children who, regardless of their disability, will all have the chance to participate in sports.”