Paul O'Mara knows its no secret the Whistler Cycling Club's (WCC) demographics skew toward the more experienced.
O'Mara, the club's treasurer, is looking to help change that.
At the WCC's annual general meeting at Myrtle Philip Community School on March 22, the organization launched a program to provide a boost for young people in the sport.
"We know that there are kids who are competing in cycling right now who could use help financially. We know that the time is right to start offering this development in cycling because a lot of the people in the cycling program have grey hair. We've got to make sure there's some young folks coming up to hit the pavement," he said.
The WCC's mission statement has always included supporting youth, but there were so many other tasks for the fledgling club to complete that it is just now ticking this box on the checklist.
"It's only now after spending two and a half years getting the club established, getting all of the basics happening and then fine-tuning some of the rides that are being offered, we were able to get something together and focus something on the kids in the community," O'Mara said.
He explained the club will award between $1,000 and $1,500 to young competitive riders in need of some additional funding. He said the size and number of awards will be determined after all applications are received.
Those interested in applying can fill out a form on the WCC website at www.whistlercyclingclub.ca. The form will be posted by March 31 at the latest and the deadline to apply is April 15.
Though an athlete being competitive is part of the criteria this time around, the goal is to open the awards to a greater variety of riders in future years.
"By the end of April, we'd like to announce some awards this year, we think, to road cycling athletes who are competing," O'Mara said. "In the long run, we'd like to provide assistance to recreational cyclists and also to programs that foster cycling in younger kids. We know that some of the younger kids are not really ready to ride on the highway, but if it means getting them going on BMX and some mountain bikes, we'll consider offering programs to get the kids cycling that will hopefully, eventually, lead them to road cycling."
Among other future plans, the club hopes to also serve as a resource to connect riders with other forms of funding.
"The long-term goal is for the club to be a funnel or a conduit for some other fundraising sources to raise money through other sources that want to give to the community. If we can demonstrate that the Whistler Cycling Club stands behind the program and uses its own money to create awards, we'd like to try to generate other fundraising through other sources," O'Mara said.
The money that will be awarded was not raised through club dues, but rather through members volunteering at events like Subaru Ironman Canada and hosting spin classes.
"This is money that the club has raised, not through membership fees or dues, but rather fundraising the club has performed over the past year or two," O'Mara said.
WCC president Frank Savage said other matters were discussed at the meeting, including the creation of a ride standards task force.
"It's to train our ride leaders and to document the safety and ride etiquette standards for doing group rides in terms of managing the groups," he said. "Road cycling does have some hazards and we want to make sure that our group rides are safe."
The club will also host its annual solstice ride on Sunday, June 19. It will honour Ross Chafe and Kelly Blunden, two members who were killed while riding last May. Further details will be announced at a later date.