Paul Etherington, Chairman and co-founder motionball, Toronto
In 1989, at the encouragement of their parents, brothers Sean, Mark and Paul Etherington began to volunteer for the Toronto Sports Celebrities Festival Gala (co-founded by their father), and got a backstage pass to a world where philanthropy and sports can change a life for a Special Olympics athlete.
Over the next decade, while they were at university, they continued to volunteer. Twelve years later in 2001, over beers at the Bier Markt in Toronto, the brothers created motionball, a not-for-profit organization to benefit the Special Olympics Foundation in Canada. They had one goal in mind: Build the next generation of Special Olympics supporters, and have fun doing it.
What began in Toronto is now also active in Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. The youngest of the trio, Paul, serves as chairman and co-founder of motionball for Special Olympics.
In 1999, my passion for Special Olympics athletes was cemented when Kevin Timberlake, then a 25-year-old Special Olympics athlete who worked in our office, asked if I would watch his floor hockey team practice. For two hours, I watched them train hard and scrimmage. It wasn’t until that moment that I felt a very personal connection and really saw the impact of what we were doing in action. The following week, I signed up to be a coach.
motionball is not just a fundraiser: It is a movement.
Through our events, we fully integrate our Special Olympics athletes so they can compete, have fun and meet new friends. Annually, we connect with approximately 5,000 participants, 10,000 people who make pledges, and over 300 volunteers.
The mother of one Special Olympics athlete shared with us the impact the program had on her 25-year-old daughter Courtney [whose sports are individual, swimming and horseback riding, but who participated in the Marathon of Sport held in Vancouver]: “I have never seen Courtney so willing and enthused about participating in a team event in an unfamiliar setting. She came home, and in her words was “up and said she had never felt so included and such a part of a ‘regular’ team and her team members made her want to do her best in a sport she had never played before.”
Just under 5 per cent of all Canadians with intellectual disabilities are enrolled in Special Olympics programs. The movement clearly has a long way to go. motionball hopes to help Special Olympics Canada grow its athlete count by 15,000 over the next five years and coaches by 4,000 over five years.
First, we want to get young professionals in Canada between the ages of 20 and 45 to be aware and become involved in some way. Second, we want to be in a position to donate $1-million to Special Olympics annually by 2014. Through motionball, we have donated just over $3-million since 2002.
We give about 20 per cent of our time to motionball, which affects the growth of our company and our net worth, too.
What do you do for fun?
I love to play poker with my friends in my backyard with a beer in my hand.
Kevin Timberlake, Arthur Rea, Troy Ford-King, Christina Campbell, Blaise Stretton and the over 35,000 Special Olympics athletes and their parents.
motionball will join in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, which is designed to remove the use of the “R” word from everyday vocabulary.
Steve Nash. He embodies what being Canadian is all about: hard-working, proud, ambitious, a centre of influence and a strong moral compass.