Canada Athletes pivot from sting of Tokyo honouring Canada's frontline workers with art

23:09  24 july  2020
23:09  24 july  2020 Source:   msn.com

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a person holding a sign posing for the camera © Provided by The Canadian Press

Confusion turned to smiles when Vancouver emergency room nurse Steff McLean opened a package from rower Maxwell Lattimer.

Inside the box was a painting of a gold Maple Leaf on a red background.

A letter enclosed from Canadian Athletes Now informed McLean the painting was his in recognition of his work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic at Vancouver General Hospital.

"I just kept smiling and felt very appreciated," McLean said.

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"It felt like a grand gesture to be receiving something and for someone to be appreciative of the hard work we do."

Lattimer, who rowed for Canada in the 2016 Olympic Games, nominated his brother's boyfriend to receive it because of their conversations about McLean's work experiences during the pandemic.

"It really speaks to what it means to be a frontline worker because you put others before yourself throughout an entire day," Lattimer explained. "Patient care is the thing he's most passionate about."

Lattimer would have been on the Canadian team walking into Friday's opening ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now postponed to 2021 because of the virus.

Redirecting a painting he might have received himself to McLean gives Lattimer perspective on that disappointment.

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"I think it will help me look at 2020 without any sort of regrets or bad memories," Lattimer said. "I'll think about living through an experience the whole world had to deal with."

Fifty frontline workers nominated by athletes have received the paintings so far. The artist hopes many more get them.

Jane Roos is the fundraising juggernaut behind Canadian Athletes Now, or Canfund, which has raised $40 million in private-sector donations since 2003 for athletes.

Her Maple Leaf paintings are one of the organization's fundraisers.

Donors buy the art for themselves or to give to an athlete.

Many Olympians and Paralympians have Maple Leaf paintings hanging on their walls.

The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games postponed, Roos told athletes to choose a person on the frontlines of the pandemic to receive a painting.

"We still want to fundraise for athletes," Roos said. "Because we have this large inventory, I felt there was nobody else I'd rather give them to right now than frontline workers."

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On the eve of her departure for Victoria to join the women's rugby sevens team, Britt Benn presented sister-in-law Emily Benn with a painting at a family barbecue in Napanee, Ont.

Emily Benn is a social worker at Lennox and Addington County General Hospital.

"I told her the history behind it and how Jane makes them herself, how there are donors who purchase the paintings to support athletes in Canada," Britt said.

"She's not only my sister-in-law, but she's my best friend too. I know she's putting herself at risk every day for people's needs and demands."

Said Emily: "There's always a lot of pride I have when I'm talking about her. It's been inspiring to watch her chase this dream.

"It was a nice moment in time to have that pivot for me, for her to say 'you know what? It's pretty cool what you're doing too.'"

Canadian softball player Erika Polidori of Brantford, Ont., is a nurse who returned to work during the pandemic at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont.

She nominated younger sister Andrea, an oncology nurse at Toronto's The Hospital for Sick Children, who received the unexpected package in the mail.

"I was just so taken aback in the best possible way to be recognized by her like that," Andrea said. "She's a nurse so she gets that aspect as well."

Erika hoped to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer, but says public health and safety comes first.

"Plans change, but the goal is still the same," Erika said. "It's really important just to keep things in perspective for sure.

"These paintings might not find a home with the athletes in the next coming weeks, but to be able to give them a good home and I think a very deserving home was a really wonderful spin to the original idea."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2020.

Follow @DLSpencer10 on Twitter.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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