New initiative aims to give 'the gift of movement' 

Legs for Locals will raise funds for the physically impaired, one candidate at a time

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Legs for locals Local Brendan Cavanagh, who broke his back while snowboarding in December, is the first candidate for a new fundraising initiative called Legs for Locals which will support the physically impaired.
  • photo submitted
  • Legs for locals Local Brendan Cavanagh, who broke his back while snowboarding in December, is the first candidate for a new fundraising initiative called Legs for Locals which will support the physically impaired.

At its very core, Whistler is a place based on movement.

Whether gliding down a mountain, hurtling off a halfpipe or trekking through the forest, people come to Whistler to move and be moved.

But that mobility can be taken in an instant, and that's why resort resident Jenna Jones has launched Legs for Locals, an initiative to raise money for the physically impaired in Whistler.

"(Legs for Locals) is a very tangible community support network where 100 per cent of the proceeds go to something you'll physically see in the future, which is giving the gift of movement," Jones said.

Disillusioned with the lack of transparency at some large-scale charities, the 27-year-old Jones wanted to create a way for donations to go directly to someone who needs them. The idea is to raise funds for one candidate at a time through community events and online awareness campaigns.

First on her list? Local Brendan Cavanagh, who broke his back while snowboarding on Blackcomb Mountain in December, and who is fighting to walk again.

"Brendan had a spinal cord injury on a hill we all ride every day, so it hits home and it's something where the $30,000 we're planning to raise will go directly to his (rehab)," Jones said.

Jones was unaware of Cavanagh until a mutual friend mentioned him as a potential candidate. The outpouring of support from a complete stranger overwhelmed the 33-year-old Cavanagh, organizer of the Whistler Haunted House.

"I was pretty floored that there was this person who showed up out of nowhere with such an interest in my situation," he said. "I was absolutely amazed."

Since Cavanagh's injury, he has been working tirelessly with therapists at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, and recently regained movement in his toes. While he admits the road to recovery can sometimes be a lonely, frustrating journey, he said the support from the community — including the more than $12,000 he's raised through a crowdfunding campaign — helps keep him going. (Donate at www.gofundme.com/brendansrecovery.)

"Oh God, it's changed me almost entirely," he said. "It really seems to take an extreme situation sometimes for people to see that we love each other. I've felt so loved, and I don't think I've ever felt that way before. It's a strange feeling for me but it's a very welcome one."

Several local businesses have lent their support to Legs for Locals so far. The FireRock Lounge will not only host a launch party on March 31 at 8 p.m., but will donate partial proceeds from the Locals Live jam night every Tuesday until the fundraising mark is met. Other supporting businesses include the Whistler Brewing Company, Loka Yoga and Scandinave Spa.

For the month of March, Jones has launched Get Up, Stand Up, a viral campaign to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries. To get involved, post a photo or video to social media of yourself doing an activity or everyday task without using your legs with the hashtag #GetUpStandUp.

Visit www.facebook.com/legsforlocals for more information or donate to the initiative at www.gofundme.com/nmm4ao.

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