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Pulling back the curtain on Whistler’s Old School Initiative

Meet the old schooler who’s been quietly funding local athletes on snow and concrete since 2020
The list of local athletes Jarvis helps with funding continues to grow year after year.

Beau Jarvis remembers a time when, for he and his friends, there were only two seasons in Whistler: “We didn’t have any sports teams so in the winter, we skied, and in the summers we skateboarded,” he said.

According to Jarvis, he’s one of just five people his age to have the honour of being born and raised in Whistler—“My claim to fame,” he said with a laugh.

Today, he’s president of Vancouver-based Wesgroup Properties, and is in a position to give back. He was inspired to do just that shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, donating funds to food banks and community social services, mostly. That’s since snowballed into the Whistler Old School Initiative, a grassroots program through which Jarvis and a few friends have quietly been funding local athletes and organizations for the past year and a half.

It started with Alpine Canada skier Broderick Thompson, who has also called Whistler home for all of his 27 years.

Thompson and Jarvis were introduced on the hill by mutual pal Joey Gibbons, and Thompson—like most other Canadian Olympic athletes—needed help funding hefty team fees, travel and other competition costs. He reached out to Jarvis to see if he could offer some support.

It continued when Jarvis brought his daughter to a skateboard night run by Real Wild Kittens, the girls’ skate club operated by Whistler snowboarders Juliette and Amalia Pelchat.

“I started asking them questions that led to [them saying] they’d love to have some T-shirts printed,” Jarvis recalled. “So I was like, ‘I’ll do that.’” (Simplifying that task was the fact that Vancouver print shop, Vandal Merch House, is owned by Jarvis’ brother.)

That was in 2020. Fast forward to the following spring, when the Real Wild Kittens reached out for more merch, Thompson reached out for more funding, and the Whistler Skateboard Club officially launched.

With the help of his friend, fellow born-and-raised Whistlerite Marco Feller, who owns Vancouver skateboard company Supra Distribution, Jarvis managed to secure skateboard gear for the club at cost.

Real Wild Kittens soon needed its own gear, too. “And so I did the same thing again,” said Jarvis.

“They just were so grateful for the support, and they were surprised by the support, and I was just like, ‘You guys just need to stay in business—just keep doing what you’re doing, so this becomes sustainable, and I will get you as much support as I possibly can.’”

At that point, Jarvis realized his various charitable endeavours needed more direction—and the Old School Initiative was born.

Giving back to his community felt good, and he knew he had the connections to grow his impact.

“There’s a whole bunch of people that were either born and raised in Whistler and Pemberton, or have longstanding ties to the corridor, who have gone out and had some kind of moderate success in business or life,” Jarvis said.

“[They’re] still really tied and committed to the community and interested in giving back a little bit, but no one’s ever talked to them about it. So that’s when I came up with the Old School Initiative.”

Initially, Jarvis wanted to keep the name behind the initiative anonymous, but eventually figured he had to let a few fellow old schoolers in on his secret.

“I realized quickly that if I wanted people to get involved, I had to call them and tell  them it was me,” he said with a laugh.

Since then, he’s brought friends and their respective companies, like Coastal Mountain Excavations, Thornhill Real Estate and Landyatchz longboards into the fold to contribute to specific initiatives, whether it be supplying branded shade tents for the skateboard clubs, buying Ikon season passes for Juliette and her snowboard coach, Sam Weston, or sponsoring skate contests.  The Old School Initiative also recently launched a collaboration with Pemberton-based craft ski manufacturer Foon Skis. They’ve created a custom Old School topsheet, where 40 per cent of the profits from skis sold go toward funding their projects.

The Initiative is now looking for another athlete to sponsor—ideally a female, and ideally a skier, and definitely someone who’s willing to pay it forward to the community in some capacity.

Jarvis estimates the Initiative has contributed up to $20,000 to date, most of which has been his own money.

“I’ve been lucky and I’ve worked hard and I’m in a position to be able to do a little bit of that,” he said. “It just makes me feel so good.”

As the Old School Initiative’s first sponsored athlete, Thompson—a newly minted World Cup medallist—said he’s excited to have been a part of the initiative from its beginning.

“There’s going to be a lot of opportunity coming from it for sure … If it just keeps growing, a lot of people will want the support, and I think the people that deserve it, will get it, because of the people that are behind [the Initiative],” Thompson said. “It’s not about who’s the best, necessarily, or who gets that sponsorship to be, say, that high-brand recognition. It’s to support local, and build programs and build up athletes that might not have that support they need to reach their goals and live their dreams.”

While the funding provides “a sense of relief, knowing that I don’t need to go out and fundraise more, and I can really focus on my sport, and focus on the training and the racing,” the ski racer also said he identified with the hyper-local, old-school mentality behind the Initiative.

Considering the tight-knit nature of Whistler’s community and the constant support it has always provided Thompson, “it just made sense,” he said. “I think it’s just cool to have [a sponsor] that I feel represents my childhood and where I come from.”

As for the name? In Whistler, conversations between strangers rarely last two minutes before someone asks the other how long they’ve lived in town, noted Jarvis.

“There have been people who have asked me, ‘How are you qualified to be an old schooler?’ And I want to say that as far as we’re concerned with what we’re trying to do, you can be in Whistler for a hot minute, or you can be Whistler for 40 years, and you’re an old schooler … there’s not some kind of exclusive group here,” he said.

As its members continue doing what they can to give back to the community, “It’s really just trying to generate awareness so that people see and know what we’re doing. And if they want to get involved, please get involved.”

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