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VANOC making tickets available to people in need

Sea to Sky community service groups working to distribute tickets in January

Residents in the Sea to Sky corridor with limited financial means might get a boost next month from the Olympic organizing committee.

Since Nov. 30 this year, VANOC has been working with community service groups in both the corridor and Vancouver to distribute hundreds of Olympic Games tickets to individuals in need.

The program, Celebrate 2010, is still in its initial stages, with the Whistler Community Services Society and the Sea to Sky Community Services Society in Squamish currently drawing up wish lists of people they would recommend to receive tickets.

In Whistler, executive director Greg McDonnell explained the Community Services Society plans to distribute their tickets to people who have used the groups' service in the past and who otherwise wouldn't have the financial means to attend any of the Olympic events.

"We earmarked some individuals that we accessed through our programs," he said. "I am reluctant to identify who those people are, for confidentiality reasons, but they are people who have accessed the Whistler Community Services Society in the past."

As of yet, neither groups have heard definitively how many tickets VANOC will allocate to the Celebrate 2010 program, although McDonnell said it will likely be around 200 Whistler-event tickets. He added that, from what he has heard, recipients will likely get their tickets in January.

"We have worked with VANOC to do everything in our power to get a significant amount of tickets to try and distribute around the corridor," he said. "We are obviously thrilled that they have found it in their good hearts to enable community members who are less fortunate to attend many of the events of the Games."

The focus of the program is on children, families, Aboriginal people, new immigrants, and people with disabilities. The program will stretch from Britannia Beach to north of Lillooet.

Louis Wynne, executive director from the Sea to Sky Community Services Society, said her organization is working with groups both in Squamish and north of Whistler, and she has already been in contact with the Howe Sound Women's Centre, Hot Spot Community Resource Centre, First Nation band offices, the Pemberton Youth Centre, and local schools.

She said it is tricky to fairly distribute the tickets, but the society is hoping to have as many people as possible experience at least one event.

"The goal is to try and provide the opportunity for individuals and families and children to attend the Games that ordinarily wouldn't be able to, because they would have a financial barrier," she said. "The way I understand it is VANOC wants us to really think about who would really enjoy and benefit from the experience. A lot of the Whistler events are outside, so we need to really consider things like accessibility and those kinds of things."

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development also plans to participate in the program, but specific details are currently being worked out.

As of now, spokesperson Darren Harbord said it is likely the ministry will give tickets to children, youth in care, caregivers, and families that already receive services from the provincial government.

Tickets for recipients in the Sea to Sky area will be free and include all the eight Whistler Olympic events, the three Whistler Paralympic Events, and 12 nightly Victory Ceremonies. Local public transit will also be provided for free, and chaperones or guardians will be arranged if necessary.