Students at Oakenwald Elementary School welcomed a golden guest last week.
Four-time Olympian Jennifer Botterill spoke to a gymnasium full of students about the importance of volunteerism, teamwork and goal-setting.
The former member of the Canadian women’s hockey team visited the school as part of the RBC Olympians Grant Program.
In addition to the school appearance, Botterill presented Wildwood Community Club with a $5,000 grant. The program provides Olympic athletes with grants to distribute to athletic associations, community groups or charities which fostered their love of sport or touched their lives.
Botterill spoke to the students about how volunteers at the local community club made a difference in her life and helped spark her Olympic dream.
Botterill, who won three Olympic gold medals and a silver, said the chance to give back to the community she grew up in was a special opportunity for her.
"To see all the kids here and talk about the Wildwood Community Centre is very special. For me there are so many memories (at the centre). It’s what I thought about in those times where (training) was exhausting, or during big moments and big Olympic games," said Botterill, who grew up in Wildwood Park.
"Today there was a real connection (with the students). It’s not just like I’m going to any school. This was the school that was at the end of my community."
Botterill said she still visits the community centre where she learned to play hockey whenever she is in town to visit her parents.
She said it was important to share with the students the importance of setting goals, believing in themselves and having a positive attitude.
"I think that’s one of the greatest pleasures of having the chance to play on the Olympic team — obviously the chance to play and represent your country, but also what it means afterwards, when you can share experiences or help people in one way or another. I don’t think there are many things that are more rewarding than that," she said.
Oakenwald student Dylan Mask said having the opportunity to meet Botterill was a great experience.
"Holding her medals was a great experience. It’s really cool that she’s from our community," said Mask, who plays hockey at the Wildwood Community Club and has had the opportunity to meet Botterill before.
Oakenwald principal Dave Poersch said it was great for the students to hear Botterill’s story, and learn how important volunteers at the local community centre were to her.
"It sets a wonderful example," he said.
Poersch said having a high-profile person who is from the community speak to them had a real impact on the students.
"They can identify a little more quickly with her. The fact she grew up, and mentioned the same streets they might live on and the same rink they skate on makes it more identifiable for them," he said.
Bill Jost, president of the Wildwood Community Centre, said having Botterill give back to the community centre meant a lot.
"(Botterill) has a huge heart. She loves the community and the things she does… she does an awesome job of giving back. The donation to the centre is just awesome," he said.