MONTREAL – Olympic freestyle skiing gold medalist Alexandre Bilodeau credits his older brother for why he became one of the world’s top athletes.
Frédéric Bilodeau has cerebral palsy, but despite his disability, he grew up on the slopes alongside his Olympian younger brother.
Wednesday, Bilodeau emotionally recounted how everything changed seven years ago, just as he and his family were preparing to go out on their annual Christmas ski trip.
Bilodeau could no longer help his brother put his ski boots on because his legs had become too weak.
“That moment was very hard for the family,” said a teary Bilodeau.
“To realize my brother wasn’t able to ski anymore.”
He decided to make it his life’s mission to ensure children with disabilities have access to sports.
Bilodeau lent his name to a new fund at the MAB-Mackay Centre to support adapted sports programs.
“I’ve seen stories of kids who couldn’t talk, then they start doing sports and they can talk,” said Bilodeau.
“It’s that crazy – if you allow kids to dream, how much they can overcome.”
The centre’s existing program is at risk because of government budget cuts, something that worries Emily Diamond, whose four-year-old son, Bennett, has cerebral palsy.
He has thrived as part of the centre’s pool therapy.
“I get so much joy watching my other children playing hockey, football and gymnastics and hope that Bennett will have the opportunity to do something like that one day,” said Diamond with a huge smile.
The centre set out to raise $1 million to fund the sports program for ten years; efforts so far have already achieved 92 per cent of the goal.
“They feel they can do something, be part of a group, which is so difficult for some of these kids because they they always feel left out. In doing sports they, feel more integrated,” said Elizabeth Coutu, a physiotherapist at the centre.
© 2016 Shaw Media