Catriona Le May Doan may not be racing around the ice track and earning Olympic gold medals so much these days, but she still manages to be an inspiration.
On Thursday, the three-time Olympic medalist took time to visit some of the Hamilton Salvation Army’s services. Le May Doan was in town for the city’s first annual Hope in the City breakfast, which kicks off the Sally Ann’s Christmas kettle campaign.
A longtime Salvation Army supporter, Le May Doan said she dedicates time to the organization because of the breadth of its services.
“The good that’s being done is not just those who are on the street and it’s not just those who have an addiction. It’s everybody,” she said.
Following the breakfast, where the former Team Canada speed skater made a speech, Le May Doan visited Grace Haven, a Salvation Army resource and residency centre for teenage mothers.
“All the little babies were so cute,” Le May Doan, a mother of two, said. “I wanted to take them home with me.”
Next, she took a tour of the Lawson Ministries Autism Centre, which provides programming and residency for adults with developmental disabilities, including autism. Le May Doan met some of the program participants, sharing her medals, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Deanna Finch-Smith, executive director at Lawson Ministries, was in awe at Le May Doan’s effect on some of the participants.
“Two of our folks who I never really see interact with people — especially somebody new — I watched them open up to her,” Finch-Smith said.
Halmat Aziz, a regular participant of the centre’s STRIVE day programming, lit up when Le May Doan showed him her medals and happily posed for photos with the Olympian.
“It’s something about her. I was joking, asking her ‘do you want a job?’” Finch-Smith laughed.
Some of the participants even thanked Le May Doan for her visit with a serenade, singing along to "Lean on Me."
The Salvation Army has faced scrutiny lately after it revealed an internal fraud scheme that resulted in the loss of nearly $2 million worth of donations from its Toronto warehouse.
But, for Le May Doan, the focus should remain on the communities that need a helping hand.
“We’re capable of seeing more things, but I don’t think we open our eyes as much as we used to because we’re so focused on our screens,” she said.
“You can talk about programs as much as you want but when you actually see it and you see the help it’s doing, to me it’s wonderful.”