2019 Canada Winter Games: Value of donor legacies

Currently under construction and opening in February 2019, the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza, located in front of the old Central Elementary School, is a lasting legacy for central Alberta. (Contributed photo)

Operationalizing the 2019 Canada Winter Games requires a million puzzle pieces to be put together just in time to provide a life-shaping experience for all participants. Athletes receive housing, transportation, entertainment and venues to compete at. Spectators are entertained with sports and culture, provided the opportunity to meet new friends and explore another gem of our vast nation, central Alberta. Sponsors provide enhancements by setting up corporate activations to garner the attention of potential consumers for their business. The analysis of success of these participants is done through many aspects of operations: athlete performance, spectator experience, sponsor engagement and overall experiences. These experiences live on for generations for these participants and the community alike.

There is an additional piece of the puzzle that lives on as a legacy of the Games. This legacy is made possible through a sector of humble, compassionate citizens of our community. They help us take visions, like that of a legacy plaza, and turn them into reality. The vision of the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza becomes reality when it opens in February of 2019.

When the City of Red Deer committed $1 million to the establishment of a legacy plaza for the 2019 Games, the sum seemed like a realistic amount of money. But when reality hit the drawing board, the 2019 Host Society soon realized that to achieve a long-term impactful vision and make efficient use of the City’s contribution, we needed to expand the financial contribution for the plaza. It was a tremendous opportunity to revitalize a sector of downtown Red Deer that has been neglected for many years, an opportunity to provide a more age-appropriate play space for the middle school attendees and it was an opportunity to provide the community with a gathering space in the centre of their walkable living area.

So, who is aiding this tremendous legacy opportunity? One word – donors. An unselfish sector of our community that contributes to the physical and emotional health of our city. First, their giving comes with no personal gain. Most are not corporate owners, but rather individuals that recognize they can make a difference in their community.

The Celebrity Dance Off 2018 kick-started the momentum to achieve the vision of the legacy plaza and inspired contributors from all walks of life to contribute to the project. The dancers and instructors put in countless hours of preparation to entertain the attendees, spread the word of this worthy project and found donors as part of their participation in the Dance Off.

Following the Dance Off, individual donors learned of the opportunity to contribute to the legacy plaza. These donors had many reasons to donate to the project – some went to school at this site and believed in the education they received there. For others, this was where their first dance happened or they believe in playgrounds as being an outlet to an active lifestyle. Some were no longer association with corporations who could become sponsors, but still want to be part of this historic event happening in our city and viewed the plaza as a tremendous opportunity to be part of the 2019 Games by contributing to a lasting legacy. The best part about donations is that it is a gift truly from the heart from individuals who want to make their community better.

Kathy Calvin once said “Giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference”. Every time a child plays on the playground, every time a family skates on the ice surface, every time a student studies on the steps and every time a volunteer is recognized and thanked at the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza, these donors will have made a difference in their community.

When we celebrate the opening of the plaza in February, these donors can stand a little higher as they have truly given of themselves. If you would like to join them on the permanent donor wall, please email me at lradford@2019canadagames.ca before December 1. Be a part of one of the biggest events Red Deer has hosted and, most of all, help us show “it’s about making a difference!”

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