Tom Thomson's idea to develop commemorative Whistler pins for the Olympics came to fruition Thursday as thousands of pins were distributed to students and teachers throughout the Sea to Sky corridor.
On Jan. 21 every child in the school district between D'arcy and Squamish received a free nickel-sized silver pin featuring a black bear, a red maple leaf and the word "Whistler" in blue capital letters.
Thomson called the pins the "Cubby," in honour of the Loonie and the Toonie coins. And he hopes during the Olympics the pins will become their own kind of currency as collectors from around the world vie for them.
Kids can use the pins to trade or to keep them as a memory of the Olympics, said the Whistler councillor and former schoolteacher.
"Within the population of Whistler, there hasn't been a lot of forethought into a certain demographic and that is the students," said Thomson. "The purpose of this is to give something back to a group that hasn't had the opportunity to share in the Whistler pizzazz."
Exactly 4,437 pins were distributed on Thursday through School District 48.
And Thomson has extra pins in his pocket for students who are not part of the school district system, like the school in Mount Currie or private schools.
"I would like to make sure that all the students in the corridor get them," he said, adding that schools that didn't receive the pins can contact him at email@example.com.
Thomson's pin idea was born out of the Whistler Medallion program, which he launched in February last year after VANOC announced it was moving the official Olympic medal ceremonies in Whistler from Celebration Plaza to the sports venues.
In particular, the councillor hoped presenting commemorative medallions to athletes in Celebration Plaza would still attract people to the village, as well as inspire the local youth. But in the spring, when VANOC announced the official medals ceremonies were moving back to Celebration Plaza, Thomson realized his medallion program was no longer necessary.
"Thank goodness we didn't have to do it because the Olympic medals are also outstanding," said Thomson. "I'm happy we don't have to do medallions. If any of our local Canadians happen to win one of those medals in Medals Plaza, they will own the town in perpetuity."
Thomson decided to use the community support he had garnered from his medallion program - along with the personal funds he had already set aside - to create an Olympic memento for youth.
"The money I was going to allocate for the medallions, I turned into Whistler Pins," said Thomson. "At one of our first council sessions, we were talking about raises and I said I was willing to forgo that. This is that (raise), plus more."
Thomson designed the pins himself, avoiding any mention of the Olympics or resemblance to the Olympic rings.
His composition was inspired by two local pieces recently commissioned by the municipality that featured black bears, including the sculpture by Mike Tyler that currently sits outside MY Millennium Place.
"Strength, courage and leadership happen to be the black bear totem, and that is a nice fit for the kids to aim towards," said Thomson.
He said he hopes students and teachers will wear the pins proudly during the Olympics next month.