Yukon Olympian helps raise money for youth sports

Yukon cyclist Zach Bell is back in Yukon to raise money for a program which gives grants to athletes.

Cyclist Zach Bell says there are financial burdens on kids in more remote communities

Zach Bell invited Yukoners to join him on a 25-kilometre bike ride around the city on Saturday. (Dave Croft/CBC)

People in Whitehorse had an opportunity to ride with an Olympian Saturday.

Cyclist Zach Bell is back in Yukon to raise money for a program which provides grants to to help promising young Yukon athletes get to the elite level of their sport. The program, called the Sport Access Fund, was set up in conjunction with Sport Yukon.

"It's about getting kids hooked on sport at a young age and keeping them in it. And right now I feel the place I can make a difference is helping them meet some of the challenges of those initial years of making the team before the funding that's available really kicks in," he said.

Bell said there are financial burdens on kids from the remote communities who want to compete at an advanced level.

He said he wants to make sure everyone has the same opportunities he had.

"Knowing how those experiences can change the trajectory of your life, I think it's really important that every kid be given the opportunity to take it up. So right now we're putting together a fund that hopefully catches some of those kids that might fall through the cracks."

Yukoners were invited to join Bell for a 25-kilometre ride around the city.

Participation was by donation, with all the money raised going to the new sports fund.

Bell was raised in Watson Lake in southeast Yukon.

Ryan Drummond from Watson Lake brought his young daughters Alia and Sophie to the event.

"During the Olympics there was a rally in Watson Lake for Zach and the girls and their mom made posters and decorated their bikes and went to that rally and really got into the Olympic spirit, and again excited about the idea of a Watson Laker, in the Olympics," said Drummond. 

Bell was a medal hopeful in an omnium cycling event at the 2012 London Olympics. He came up short but is still a hero to many people in the territory.