District weighs idea of helping athletes travel

Ucluelet’s municipal council declined to assist with a local athlete’s travel costs but will consider funding athletic endeavors of local youth in the future.

Heather Morrison, a grade 10 student at Ucluelet Secondary School, competed in the National Cadet Wrestling Championships in Guelph Ontario from April 2-6. On April 1 she told the Westerly News she was both nervous and excited about her upcoming experience.

“As the only person from Ucluelet going to Nationals, I think it’s a great opportunity for me to represent Ucluelet and Vancouver Island,” she said.

She got off to a hot start in Guelph, winning her first match against Newfoundland’s Jamie Lake but was knocked out of medal contention after two losses to Ontario wrestlers, Jayd Davis-who went on to the gold medal match-and Jessica Jenkins.

Before she left, Morrison had asked council to assist with her travel expenses but her request was denied because the district’s Jan. 31 grant-application deadline had passed.

“It’s a difficult one; it’s always nice to be able to support youth and programs but unfortunately I think we’re stuck in a situation where we’re spent,” said Coun. Dario Corlazzoli.

Morrison was able to make the trip without the district’s support but plans to kick off local fundraising efforts to help offset some of the roughly $688 of travel costs she and her family incurred.

Coun. Sally Mole wants the district to put a $500-$1000 fund in place to help young athletes like Morrison represent Ucluelet in the future.

“So that if we have youth from our community representing Ucluelet at a regional provincial or national level we have money set aside so we can offer some kind of financial support for those kids to represent us,” she said.

She suggested the fund should be separate from the district’s support of its schools. “There are some things that are supported really well through the schools and I know we also support the schools in those endeavors but there are also cases where a child or youth is competing as an individual but still representing (Ucluelet).”

Coun. Randy Oliwa suggested a solution could be found in the district’s parks and recreation subsidy program that he suggested is currently underused.

“It’s underspent,” he said. “We’re constantly hearing from rec. that that’s not tapped into; they may already have the money sitting there.”

Ucluelet’s parks and recreation director Abby Fortune said the subsidy fund, which was implemented in 2011 has been underutilized in the past but is becoming more popular as locals become aware of it.

“Already this year I’m noticing increase in use so we’re very pleased that that’s happening,” she said.

The program provides families with up to $100 towards recreational programming per-season, according to Fortune.

“It’s very specifically for our recreation programs,” she said. “It allows accessibility to programs for people who might not otherwise be able to afford it.”

Fortune said recipients of the subsidy funding are asked to pay it forward through volunteerism.

District CAO Andrew Yeates said Morrison’s request did not fit into the program’s current criteria but noted that council could adjust this criteria for 2015.

Morrison plans to wrestle at the national level again and is excited about council’s consideration of a fund to support local athletes.

“That would be amazing,” she said. “It can be really hard on a family to support youth who are in a lot of sports.”

With three of her siblings having gone through Coach Mike Rhodes’ wrestling program at USS before her, Morrison comes from a family rich in wrestling success.

Her sister Sidney won gold at the 2010 Junior Canadian National wrestling tournament and won gold again at the Women’s College Wrestling Association’s College Nationals in January 2013.

Heather quickly fell in love with wrestling after being introduced to the sport by her siblings.

“It’s a nice balance between individuality and teamwork,” she said. “When you step out on the mat you’re by yourself and you’re depending on only you but you still have the rest of your team beside the mat cheering for you.”

Morrison went through several qualifiers to earn a shot at the national crown including a third-place finish at Vancouver’s ‘War on the Floor’ tournament in December.

She said competing at a national level was a solid learning experience.

“Every time you lose a match you always feel like you could have done better,” she said. “Overall I was still proud to say I’m from Ucluelet and still proud to be representing Ucluelet.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca