Personal meaning

The motto “Champions Start Small” has a deep personal meaning for Meagan Duhamel

Meagan Duhamel noticed a small sign near a family room door as she stayed with her baby daughter in a neonatal intensive care unit last fall.

It read: “Champions Start Small” – the motto of the Sandra Schmirler Foundation – and the message stuck to the retired figure skater, who, like the late Schmirler, had won Olympic gold.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, isn’t it so fitting that Sandra Schmirler was an Olympic champion athlete and I’m staying here in this room sponsored by her [foundation]“” Said Duhamel.

His one-year-old daughter Zoey is now in full swing, Duhamel said the foundation was an easy charitable choice as they competed against Wojtek Wolski in CBC-TV’s “Battle of the Blades “.

“It’s something so personal for me,” said Duhamel. “This charity has helped me and I want everyone to see the good work they are doing.”

About 18 months before Zoey’s arrival, Duhamel crowned his figure skating career in style. The two-time world champion won team gold at the Pyeongchang Olympics and bronze in pairs with Eric Radford.

“Literally the day I finished competing I retired,” said Duhamel.

Husband Bruno Marcotte and Duhamel welcomed Zoey in October 2019, about four weeks ahead of schedule.

Zoey weighed just over four pounds at birth, but her weight would drop to three pounds and eight ounces.

“She had no health concerns other than her small size,” said Duhamel. “We’re very grateful for that. But we weren’t allowed to leave the hospital and she had to stay in the NICU until she could steadily gain weight. So we stayed there a few. weeks. “

Duhamel was ready to sleep in a chair next to Zoey at the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. A nearby family room named after a donation from the foundation provided a welcome alternative.

“It made the process of having my baby in the hospital for weeks a lot easier because I didn’t have to come home at night and leave her there,” she said. . “I was always there with her. I really wish every hospital had this.”

Raising awareness outside of curling circles

The Sandra Schmirler Foundation has raised more than $ 4.9 million for life-saving equipment in 61 neonatal intensive care units across Canada. It also offers scholarships to junior curlers.

Schmirler, who won curling gold at the Nagano Games in 1998, was 36 when she died of cancer in 2000. Her children were two years and eight months old at the time.

The Foundation Telethon is part of the opening weekend of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. After discovering charity firsthand, Duhamel hopes to raise awareness outside of curling circles.

“The time that parents and families have to spend when you have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is stressful, it is exhausting, it is difficult times and it is not an experience that anyone should have to. live, ”she said. “But there are so many people who have to go through this.”

“The competitive nature does not simply disappear”

After his retirement, the Lively, Ont. Native continued to perform with Radford on the “Stars on Ice” tours in Canada and Japan. She also took care of mini-tours and one-off performances.

Duhamel also started coaching at Skateboard Oakville near his hometown of Burlington, Ontario.

“As a competitive athlete, your competitive nature doesn’t just go away,” she said. “It doesn’t leave you. You find it different outlets, I would say.”

Wolski, meanwhile, supports the Hospital for Sick Children Patient Care Fund. He played 451 career NHL games in the regular season before retiring after the 2012-13 campaign.

Now in its sixth season, “Battle of the Blades” sees hockey players and figure skaters perform ice dance routines for the judges. Winners receive $ 100,000 in cash prizes to donate to charities of their choice.

He and Duhamel remain in the mix with a duet that will be cut Thursday night before the four-team final.

COO Brenda Gallagher said it was the first time the Sandra Schmirler Foundation has been selected as a charity by a contestant on the show.

“Raising awareness among Canadians is invaluable to us because we think we are doing a really important job – saving the lives of babies by donating this equipment – but not everyone knows us,” she said from Ottawa. .

“So for Meagan doing this for us was advertising that you just can’t buy. “

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