Mike Keenan, president of the Maple Ridge 2020 BC Summer Games, and vice-president Tom Bowen put up one of two event flags outside Maple Ridge city hall Monday. (THE NEWS files)

Province gives Maple Ridge $125,000 BC Games legacy

Also announces Karina LeBlanc Game Changer Award

Maple Ridge did not get the opportunity to host the 2020 BC Summer Games due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but the city will still receive the legacy funding.

The province, through the society, is providing $125,000 to support local sport and community development projects and ensure people will still benefit from the city being chosen to host the BC Summer Games.

“Cancelling the Games was a very hard but necessary decision. I know how much time and effort goes into the planning process,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “Although the Games did not take place, we are proud to ensure that the work to prepare is not lost and the sport, arts and community organizations in Maple Ridge can benefit from the legacy funding.”

Maple Ridge will host the BC Summer Games in 2024.

Mike Keenan, the president of the Maple Ridge 2020 BC Games said his society was “absolutely thrilled” to learn the funds will still come to the city, for sports and arts initiatives.

Keenan said the group of volunteers put in a lot of hours to prepare for the Games, but hadn’t invested a lot of funds yet.

“We didn’t spend a lot of money, because we didn’t get the Games off the ground.”

Mayor Mike Morden said the legacy is good news given the investment in energy of city volunteers.

“Cancellation resulting from COVID-19 was disappointing for sure, given a lot of hard work and effort. However, (after) some quick scrambling by the Games team, the city, School District 42 and Minister Bear; the 2024 award, which marks the 150th anniversary of the City of Maple Ridge, netted in a pretty great win for everyone.”

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge 2020 BC Summer Games organizers disappointed but proud

Alison Noble, president and CEO of the BC Games Society, said the funding honours the work of city volunteers in preparing for the 2020 Games.

“We are very pleased that Maple Ridge will benefit from a BC Games legacy,” she said. “This funding will allow for a lasting positive impact in the community and is an acknowledgement of the tremendous work that the volunteers had put into the planning of what would have been a very successful BC Summer Games.”

The province and BC Games Society are also announcing the unveiling of the Karina LeBlanc Game Changer Award. The award will recognize a local athlete or young volunteer living in the Games’ host community who has demonstrated commitment to breaking down barriers and providing people with opportunities to participate in sport. The first award will be presented in the fall.

LeBlanc is a retired Olympic bronze medallist and professional athlete. She had a prestigious career as a soccer keeper that spanned almost 18 years at the international level, participated in five FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cups and two Olympic Games.

“I’m honoured to have this award created in my name and to see more people recognizing and working hard to remove barriers in sport,” LeBlanc said. “For me, sport has been a game changer in my life to be the woman I am today, and I want sport to be that opportunity for others. When we make sport more accessible to people from all walks of life, everyone wins.”

READ ALSO: Karina LeBlanc named to Canada Soccer Hall of Fame

Keenan expects many of the volunteers who worked for the society this year will return for the 2024 Games organization.

“We were very disappointed we weren’t able to see this through,” he said, adding the motivated group will likely want to “finish what we started.”

And, he said their preparations for the 2020 Games has laid groundwork.

“A lot of the work that’s been done has got the ball rolling for 2024,” said Keenan. “We won’t be re-inventing the wheel.”

Each edition of the BC Games brings an estimated $1.6 million to $2 million in economic benefits to the host community. They are held every two years, and Vernon will host the 2022 BC Winter Games, and Prince George the 2022 BC Summer Games.

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