Four students at Royal Roads University are tying one on in support of young athletes in the LGBTQ community.
Inspired by former Olympic athlete John Fennell, Jacine Jadresko, Nicole Sandvoss and Duncan Ferguson are selling rainbow shoelaces to raise money for the You Can Play Project, a non-profit organization devoted to tackling homophobia in sports for athletes, fans and teams.
The four students chose that charity for a class project that focuses on creating an e-commerce business as part of the curriculum for RRU’s Bachelor of Commerce and Entrepreneurial Management program.
Fennell competed for Canada in the luge event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
“The environment in Russia was so distracting that it affected my performance,” he recalled in reference to the government’s open hostility toward members of the LGBTQ community. “I remember being at the top of the track thinking ‘how can I be brave enough to do this sport if I’m not brave enough to be who I am?’ I decided to find my voice to help others and make a change for the better in sports.”
None of his Olympic teammates at that time knew he was gay, but once he was back home in Canada, Fennell came out and joined the You Can Play Project, where he currently serves as a board member. He was also an alternate member of Team Canada in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Sandvoss said Fennell’s involvement with that organization made the decision to choose it as the team’s designated charity an easy one. “We see it as something that embraces individuals and organizations,” she added.
The four have set a goal of raising $1,000, and are encouraging not just individuals, but businesses, sports teams and community organizations to get involved as well by purchasing the bright, rainbow-coloured laces for $3.50 a pair.
“The You Can Play project is a charity we all feel passionate about,” Jadresko explained. “It’s something we’re all very close to.”
One hundred per cent of the money raised goes to the charity.
Ferguson said although the deadline for fundraising for the project is May 31, the initiative is something the team is eager to keep going. “We hope to pass it along and keep it going as a fundraising source for the You Can Play Project,” he said.
All four were also keen to thank Kirby Sports for their tremendous support.
To order a pair of laces or enough for your team or organization, visit lacesforpride.com.
For more information on the charity, check out youcanplayproject.org.