Student athletes at Red Deer College will soon benefit from a new fund for the Athletics Department.
The Athletics Leadership Fund was announced at RDC’s eighth annual scholarship breakfast last week, and the intent is to have the fund supplement the Athletics budget, which currently sits at $675,000 per year, giving the department the ability to take some pressure off student-athletes, bring in full time coaches and trainers, and also revive discontinued programs, like Kings hockey, which was cut years ago due to a lack of money.
“I said that when we first started looking at this fund, that I’ve been here for 16 years now and it just always feels like the roof’s on fire,” said Athletics Director Keith Hansen, who pointed out that athletic programs also play a part in building leaders within the community.
“You’re always looking for another dime here, trying to squish that one over there and move this money from there to there. Our administration has done just a wonderful job of identifying that and understanding where we need to go. They came to me with this idea and, obviously, as athletic director, I’m going, when senior administration comes to you saying “Hey, we’d like to do this”, you’re going, that is absolutely wonderful.”
The fund, which RDC is hoping to grow to $8 million dollars over the next five years, was kicked off with a $250,000 donation from local businessman Doug Quinn.
“To have Quinn jump in with that (donation), it’s just an amazing start to this fund,” beamed Hansen.
“I hope it sends a little bit of a signal to the community and I think a lot of people know us, and we have a lot of supporters and I really do believe it’s going to be something that the community gets behind.”
Melody Davidson, who won three Olympic gold medals with Canada’s national women’s hockey team, delivered the keynote address at the breakfast, and said she will do whatever she can to help grow this fund.
“Central Alberta is near and dear to my heart. I have family in Delburne, and the college really was a saviour for me, coming from a small town,” said Davidson, who graduated from RDC in 1984 before serving as recreation director in the Town of Castor for nine years.
“I really believe in the opportunity to start out slow and work your way to the top or work your way through things. I think this leadership initiative is going to be second to none and it’s desperately needed. Leadership is something that isn’t learned as easily as it used to be and I think it’s important that we continue to cultivate it.”
Davidson also pointed out the impact that athletics and sport can have on the community.
“I went to Red Deer College when the men’s hockey team was at the top of the game and winning national championships and I remember how much the school rallied and what a big point it was, even for Red Deer,” said Davidson.
“I think it’s a shame that young Central Alberta kids don’t have that opportunity right here. And it’s interesting because you don’t normally say that the girls have an opportunity that the boys don’t. On one hand, I’m glad about that but on the other hand, I love the game and I think that boys and girls should be able to have that opportunity.”
And while bringing back Kings hockey is top priority for Hansen, he also likes the idea of the fund allowing student-athletes to focus more on school and sport and a little less on fundraising.
“Our student-athletes raise anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 a year, through bake sales, Centrium clean up, bingos and all of that,” said Hansen.
“And you know, that takes a lot of time away from their overall purpose of being a student and also being an athlete. We do realize that part of the process is doing some fundraising, so they appreciate it but, to be honest, we’ve probably been taxing them a little bit too much.”