Richards Legacy Fund lends hand to local athletes

Thanks to $1,000 from the Kristi Richards Supporting the Dream Legacy Fund, Hunter Visser can spend more time working on his halfpipe skills.

Thanks to $1,000 from the Kristi Richards Supporting the Dream Legacy Fund, Hunter Visser can spend more time working on his halfpipe skills.

Visser is among three local athletes, and 10 from the Okanagan area, to receive monetary support from the fund created by the two-time Olympic mogul skier four years ago. The other locals are Andi Naude of Okanagan Falls and Connor Spence of Penticton. The amount given to this year’s winners is a record for the fund.

“We were able to distribute $10,000 this year thanks to a very successful ‘To Russia with Love’ fundraising event last fall hosted by the Local Lounge and Grille,” said Richards to the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.

Visser said he has had to work nearly full-time in the past few years to pay for his coaching expenses, travel, equipment and competition fees. That time dedicated to working has taken away from training and school.

“I was very happy and grateful. I was unsure at first whether I had received the grant. The wait seemed to take forever to find out whether I received it or not,” said Visser in an email. “When I received the letter in the mail it was well worth the wait. I cannot thank Kristi and all the Dream fund people enough for their help.”

Visser plans to use his money for a month-long training camp in Breckenridge, Colo. in November. Visser’s team will be there for early season training and will give him a huge competitive advantage and a jumpstart on the 2012 season.

Naude, Spence and Visser are following in Richards’ freestyle skiing footsteps. Naude took first place in this year’s Canada Winter Games; Spence, a mogul specialist, earned the silver medal at the Canada Post Junior Nationals this year; and Visser is the current Junior National Champion. Naude and Spence have also been accepted to the Whistler Mogul Academy, an elite national Canadian Freestyle Ski Association program for emerging talent.

“I’m super excited to receive this grant from Kristi,” said Naude. “I’m going to use it to buy some gear, like a dry suit for water ramping and some new skis. It will definitely help me do what I love.”

Richards and her panel of evaluators also awarded grants to: rhythmic gymnast Kelsey Anderson (Vernon); track athlete Malindi Elmore (Kelowna); speed skaters Alison Banwell (Kelowna) and Nick Goplen (Kelowna); cross-country skiers Alysson Marshall (Enderby), Adrienne Underhill (Salmon Arm), and Heather Mehain (Vernon). The bursary recipients will use their scholarship funds to help offset the high cost of pursuing athletic excellence.

“If it wasn’t for the outpouring of community support that I received as a young athlete there is no way I could have reached my goals, that’s why I’m so motivated to give back,” said Richards.