With the B.C. Summer Games just five months away

Senior helps bridge financial gap

Valerie Wilson is organizing events to help athletes who can’t afford to go to BC Senior Games

Valerie Wilson has played bridge in the BC Seniors Games four times, bringing home medals – including two golds – from three of them.

But despite the impressive showings – two with partner Evelyn Sutherland and one with Evelyn Ware – the last thing Wilson wants anyone to do is assume she is an expert at the game, even after 20 years at the table.

“Believe it or not, I’m going to start taking lessons in April,” the White Rock resident said.

“I’m a good player, but I’m not that good. Not nearly as good as a lot of my peers – not by a long shot.”

Good or not, Wilson’s passion for the game is undeniable.

And with this summer’s B.C. games in sight, she’s determined to help ensure those who qualify to represent the local zone can afford to go.

Government support for participants used to amount to between $60 and $100 each, Wilson explained. But it hasn’t been available since 2009, making the cost of competing difficult for some to manage.

Wilson said she knows of players “who will do without some other things” to make the trip if they qualify.

In addition to accommodation, competitors are responsible for their own meals, tea and coffee throughout the games. Until this year, they had only to worry about their accommodation.

To help offset the costs for qualifiers who belong to the Kent Street Activity Centre, Wilson is helping organize a pair of bridge tournaments which she hopes to hold at Centennial Arena this spring. She estimates the two tournaments would raise about $1,600, which would be divided amongst the qualifiers – up to 15 people.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it would definitely help,” Wilson said.

Earlier this month, Wilson appealed to White Rock council to waive the facility rental fee for the two events, which she believes will draw participants from as far away as Hope.

With an entry fee of $15 per person, the tournaments “would be a way for us to independently raise funds to help our seniors from Kent Street go to the Games,” she told council members.

It was suggested Wilson apply for funding through the city’s Grants-in-Aid program, but as of Thursday, she hadn’t heard back. The paperwork states successful applicants would receive their cheques in July, but Wilson said to pull the tournaments off, she needs to know in early April.

“We’re sort of in limbo,” Wilson said.

The Games, which typically draw about 3,500 participants aged 55 years and older, take place Aug. 16-20.

Individuals wishing to donate or for more information may contact Wilson at 604-536-5716.



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