Who better to give advice on chasing your dreams than an Olympian?
Canadian Olympic skeleton racer Jane Channell made a surprise visit to her video pen pals in a Grade 4/5 class at G.H. Dawe School on Tuesday.
Channell had been corresponding with the youngsters through the Classroom Champions, a non-profit organization that matches Olympic and Paralympic athletes with classrooms.
Her young fans were thrilled to meet the hero whose Winter Olympic exploits they had been following so closely. The North Vancouver athlete finished 10th in skeleton at the PyeongChang Winter Games with her G.H. Dawe fan club cheering her all the way.
Skeleton racers slide headfirst down the course on a small sled reaching speeds well over 120 km/h.
Channell said she first got involved in Classroom Champions when helping a teammate who was in the program work on his videos for his young fans.
“This is my first year as a classroom champion mentor and the impact it’s had on me is unbelievable. I don’t know if I could even put it into words.”
Her message to students is to dream big.
“Once you think of something big, challenge yourself and think of something even bigger.”
Grade 5 student Keira Dussoye said she learned to never give up and follow your dreams.
“Be who you are.”
Teacher Lana Beierbach said for the students knowing there was an athlete with the stature of an Olympian “makes all the difference in the world.
It’s a person who they can look up to and trust their advice,” she said.
“It’s like a special friend who’s outside their regular circle of friends.”
The class had regular reports from Channell, including through a live video chat.
Tuesday’s visit was her first time in Red Deer and she did not know what to expect, she said.
It turned out to be an overwhelming experience. She was almost brought to tears when presented with a book, each page an entry from a different student.