Sometimes in sports, athletes are put up on a pedestal because of greatness: the baseball player who can hit, catch, run or pitch with stunning grace; the hockey player who can skate with electrifying ease; the basketball player who can leap with mystifying ability; the football player who can move with endless energy.
However, beyond their contributions as athletes, it is their contributions as people that make these individuals great. When we think of Sandra Marie Schmirler, we are impressed not only with what she did in her pursuit of athletic excellence and how she defined herself as a winner, but what she contributed to others beyond just winning world championships and gold medals. Sandra Schmirler helped us understand that life is precious and we must appreciate it every day because it can be taken away in an instant. While Sandra only lived to the age of 36, she understood that we must place value on more than just winning and losing; we must prioritize the very simple things that are near and dear to us all, in particular family and friends.
Sandra loved her family -- her husband Shannon, her daughters Sara and Jenna, her mother Shirley, her sisters Beverly and Carol, her uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews -- and her many friends, not the least of whom were her teammates and soul mates - Jan Betker, Joan McCusker and Marcia Gudereit. Together, Sandra, Jan, Joan and Marcia meshed together as the greatest team in the history of women's curling, but it was Sandra, more than the others, who was in the spotlight, and she used that spectrum wisely and carefully.
Sandra came from a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada called Biggar and, as she escalated to greatness, highlighted by skipping her team to the first-ever gold medal in the Olympics, Sandra maintained her focus, never forgetting who she was and from where she had come. Moreover, she considered her greatest accomplishment giving birth to two lovely and healthy girls. Tragically, as we all know, she never had a chance to spend as much time as she wanted with them or her husband, whom she loved dearly.
When our generation thinks of Sandra Schmirler, we will recall that joyous moment she celebrated athletic magnificence with her teammates in Nagano, Japan on that historic day in February, 1998. But, we will also recall the many deeds and words that truly made this woman a hero. She touched people by not only her desire to spend time signing autographs or speaking to her legion of fans -- some of whom were touched by something as simple as her precious smile, others who enjoyed her witty remarks -- but also helping them understand what matters most in life. To Sandra, it was all about setting your priorities straight and putting things in the proper perspective. Despite all of her athletic greatness, Sandra realized that having the precious moments to spend with her family and her friends is the greatest gift of all.
Greatness is truly thrust upon few and some find it a burden to accept that gift and the responsibility that goes along with it. Sandra did not have that problem. Sandra reached out to her country in sickness and in health and made us understand what really matters in life. While we mourn her passing, we celebrate the moments we had with her and the legacy she left behind as a true hero.
The Sandra Schmirler Foundation was created in January, 2001 as a legacy to Sandra in recognition and celebration of her love of family. The idea and it's reality was a collaborative effort by the Canadian Curling Association, Scott Paper Limited (founding sponsor of the Scott Tournament of Hearts), family and friends. Working hand in hand, the Foundation's mission in 'caring for babies in crisis'. It is dedicated to helping families with newborn babies requiring special neonatal care. This includes premature, low-birth and seriously ill infants.
This curling season will see donations made at three Seasons of Champions sites. In Halifax at the Tim Hortons Curling Trials a cheque for $50,000 was donated to IWK Neonatal for the purchase of life saving equipment such as an incubator or ventilator. At The Scott Tournament of Hearts in February the Foundation will present a cheque for $50,000 to the Children's Health Foundation in London to help in the building of a new neonatal facility. And in Regina at the Tim Hortons Brier a cheque will be presented to the Mother Baby Care Unit at the Regina General Hospital, part of a five year $100,000 commitment to their Procedures Room.
The Sandra Schmirler Foundation's Executive Director is Linda Moore, 1985 World Curling Champion, 1988 Olympic Golf Medalist and renowned TSN colour commentator.