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Downhill Derelicts donate to WASP

Friends' ski trip evolves into something greater

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DJ Taylor and Jeremy Town have come a long way from their home state of Vermont.

In 2003, the pair first visited Whistler and made it an annual journey, this year bringing a group totaling 30.

"Long story short, we met each other through college and in 2003, we went to Whistler for the first time and fell in love with it and made a pledge we would come back," Taylor said. "The following year, we went from two of us to five of us. The following years after that, the group just sort of grew over time. Last year, we hit 21 people who came on the trip.

"I was talking to (Jeremy) over the summer and said: 'It seems like we should be able to do more than just go up there and have a good time, a man-cation, if you will.' We started kicking the idea around of doing something for a cause."

After discussing options with some Whistler friends, the group's first choice was to donate to the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, which offers programming in a variety of sports including paddling, rowing, skiing, snowboarding and cycling to kids and adults with different abilities. However, since foreign contributions aren't tax deductible, Taylor said the American contributions will be made through American Friends of Whistler.

"We wanted to do something for the Whistler community. It's been an amazing experience so we've gone there every year and the people we see year after year have always treated us really well. We thought: 'They've provided us this amazing playground and let's give something back to Whistler,'" he said.

Taylor then launched a campaign on PledgeIt (pledgeit.org/for/downhill-derelicts) that allows donors to offer a penny per 100 vertical feet skied. Setting the goal at 100,000 vertical feet for the week, that would be a $10 donation from all contributors. Taylor said he and the others have pounded the pavement and, as of March 22, were on pace to raise over $14,000.

Taylor said fundraising will play a major role in the competition the visitors have each year, as the Derelympics combine on-mountain events like completing the GMC Race Centre run and the Peak to Creek run and off-mountain events like Texas hold 'em poker and a saucer-sled race. They'll also award points based on the number of vertical feet skied.

"How much you raise as an individual is one of the factors by which we award, at the end of the week, gold, silver and bronze medals," he said.

WASP executive director Chelsey Walker said the organization is still making the final call on how to spend the donation, explaining that they might purchase a sit-ski or creating bursaries.

"(We'd be) making sure everybody has the chance to enjoy sport and recreation in Whistler," said Walker, who noted she'll meet the group members later this week.

Taylor said he hoped to help raise awareness of adaptive sport as well, something Walker said is always welcome.

"Anytime we can create awareness around what is available in Whistler, and in the Sea to Sky corridor for that matter, for individuals with disabilities is always a good thing," she said. "We do have to offset our program fees significantly by fundraising to keep the playing field even and level for individuals to access sport."

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