The RACE WITH ME! Virtual Challenge, an eight-week event that finished in June 2021 raised money for Kids Help Phone in addition to awareness of the importance of physical activity for young people during the pandemic.
Olympic 200m champion Andre De Grasse presented a cheque on behalf of the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation for a $25,000 donation to Kids Help Phone at an event at Father Michael McGivney Academy in Markham, ON last Thursday.
The challenge was officially launched earlier this year at the beginning of May and was sparked by the energy and enthusiasm of 14-year-old Jesse Briscoe of Montreal, Que., and inspired by sprinter Andre De Grasse’s commitment to youth in Canada.
“Finding a way to inspire Canadians to get back on track and to connect with youth in Canada was of huge importance to me. I believe in the power of reciprocal inspiration which is what I experience through all the people who participated,” said Andre De Grasse, a six-time Olympic medallist. “Supporting Kids Help Phone and all they do to help Canadian kids was an amazing way to highlight the importance of both the physical and mental health of young people.”
Jesse’s motivation in coming up with the challenge was fuelled by his frustration at the cancellation of his sports clubs and getting tired of sitting and playing video games all day. He teamed up with his dad and siblings to do something about it. Jesse was inspired by the incredible track performance of De Grasse and his mission to inspire young people to get moving. He contacted De Grasse’s management team and the RACE WITH ME! Virtual Challenge was created.
“The RACE WITH ME! Virtual Challenge not only inspired me to run track but helped me to see that I was not alone in my frustration,” said Jesse. “The fact that thousands of participants became involved in a challenge that I came up with is awesome and won’t be something I forget anytime soon!”
Named after De Grasse’s motivational picture book, RACE WITH ME!, the virtual challenge was an invitation to people across Canada to join the race to get active after a year of restrictions and to combat the devastating impact of COVID-19 on physical and mental health.
More than 3,000 participants from Halifax to Whitehorse, Yukon participated in the RACE WITH ME! Virtual Challenge from ages 1 to 82 years old. More than 30,000 students from 750 schools were part of the special #OlympicDay webcast with De Grasse and Briscoe on June 23, 2021.
COVID-19 has had a serious impact on the physical and mental health of youth in Canada. In 2020, Kids Help Phone supported young people coast to coast to coast through 4.6 million connections via phone, text, live chat, and self-directed resources, more than double the previous year. “There is no vaccine for mental health and back to school anxiety continues to impact youth across Canada.” said Katherine Hay, President and CEO of Kids Help Phone. “The awareness, funding and inspiration that Andre De Grasse and his foundation have shown will continue to drive our innovations as we deliver transformative e-mental health solutions for youth across the nation.”
As the only 24/7 bilingual and national e-mental health service in Canada, Kids Help Phone offers professional counselling support and a variety of resources to help youth in any moment of need. Through the new Gateway website, (kidshelpphone.ca) young people can access the type of the support they need, when and how they need it Through the generous donations of communities, supporters and their partners, Kids Help Phone ensures all services are free and that young people across Canada are never alone.
Andre De Grasse has captured six Olympic medals in two Games including Gold in the 200m at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games. De Grasse has also captured a total of four medals representing Canada at the 2015 and 2019 World Championships and two gold medals at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Off the track, De Grasse is a proud father raising his two daughters and stepson with his partner Nia Ali, who is the reigning World Champion in the women’s 100-metre hurdles and an Olympic Silver medallist.