Why I donate to the Canadian Paralympic Movement

Josh and wife Dalia on podium in Guadalajara 2011. Baby Olivia playing with a backpack in front of wheelchair. Josh graduating UBC law school, convocation.

Eight years old, I was in my family living room, huddled around the couple inches of TV we had back then. The little feet I was born with were sweaty and gripping our hardwood floor.

Lane 6 at those Atlanta Olympics had my entire attention – focused even more laser-like after three false starts. We were waiting along with the whole world. The gun went off and they were away clean. Donovan Bailey looked like he was going to finish last.

Then he blasted across the finish line first through the announcer’s yells: “Nine eight four, a world record for Donovan Bailey and a gold medal!” I jumped, and flexed my little boy shoulders and short arms and screamed just like he did. A gold medal for Canada.

I didn’t realize that was where my journey in competitive sport began, until a Radio Canada reporter asked me at the London 2012 Paralympics, before I competed, “When did you decide to become an athlete?” The interview was in French, and I was already a few paces behind with my messaging. I paused, and blurted: “Bein, j’étais très inspiré par la médaille d’or de Donovan Bailey dans les 100m.” I went on to tell the reporter that after seeing him win, I wanted to do the same thing.

If I had been born a few years earlier, or in a different city, I might not have been able to. Luckily, my parents already had me in swimming lessons, and we found the option of being competitive in the local disability sports team, the Sarnia Red Hots. The Olympics inspired me to be an athlete for Canada. The Paralympic movement gave me a path to do it.

On the Red Hots, I fell in love with beating my own swimming time, then beating other swimmers. At multi-sport disability events like the Windsor Classic Indoor Games for the Physically Disabled, I met other kids doing the same. I found shot put and discus and javelin there – throwing events I could compete in. I threw some of my first boccia balls in Windsor.

The memory of my first boccia games is like Donovan Bailey’s win on TV. It is so clear and very fuzzy around the edges. I won all the boccia games, and took first place out of three junior players. One of my opponents was pretty upset, and my parents’ words about him ring these years later: “Apparently he was used to usually beating all the adults.” That felt pretty good.

There weren’t many tournaments like my first. I spent most of my career as an elite athlete losing, and learning in defeat. I learned enough to pull off a bronze medal win with my doubles partner Marco Dispaltro in London 2012, but sport and the journey to that podium gave me way more than the medal.

Josh and wife Dalia on podium in Guadalajara 2011. Baby Olivia playing with a backpack in front of wheelchair. Josh graduating UBC law school, convocation.

Sport introduced me to my beautiful wife. That means even our little Olivia is from sport. Sport got me travelling away from my parents so I knew I could survive at university away from the nest. Sport taught me to set hard goals and achieve them, so I went on to finish law school.

There are less and less multi-sport disability clubs like the Sarnia Red Hots now though. Disability focused sport events happen less and less in Canada, and it is becoming less clear how kids, especially disabled kids, can participate in sport and have the choice to become athletes. I worry that other kids like me won’t have the opportunities that I did. Sport participation is plummeting across Canada. Only 3% of disabled Canadians participate in sport.

Josh and Donovan Bailey photos, side by side. Both are yelling, while competing at respective Games.

You can help me make sure current opportunities are strengthened and new ones built, by supporting the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) with me. They are asking for our help this month in raising funds.

After working as a summer law student last year at a top Canadian charity law firm, my thoughts on giving and charity were transformed. I learned that charity is not just about the weird feeling we get when those infomercials show suffering cute animals, or third world children. Charity can have an impact.

CPC sponsors are doubling the first $30,000 in donations for this campaign – Playground to Podium. I donated $250 of my own money to give back to a cause that gave me my path in life.

Please help build future Canadians – more healthy ones, and international medalists – by donating along with me, to my campaign giving group here, or through the image below.




Paralympian Josh Vander Vies Raises Over $7,000 for Canadian Boccia Team



VANCOUVER, September 11, 2013 – London 2012 Paralympic bronze medalist in boccia BC4 mixed pairs and UBC Law student, Josh Vander Vies, hosted an innovative fundraising event on August 29 – the Boccia Throwdown.  So far, it has raised $7,360 in much-needed funds for his Canadian Boccia Team, while rallying the community to support them as they take on the world.

“Being an elite athlete is expensive,” said Vander Vies, “and while many of our costs are covered by our National Sport Organization (NSO), our team still needs to find more than $22,000 from our own pockets this year to compete for Canada.  Along with our own living and training expenses, that means we have to rely on our friends, families and communities to keep roofs over our heads and healthy food on our tables.  It felt great to know I had amazing people behind me when I was on the Paralympic courts in London, and I was proud to support my teammates through this fun event, building an even stronger foundation for our future”.

The money raised will also fuel competitions, training opportunities, equipment, sport science and other needs of the Canadian team as they head towards Rio 2016.  Champions in Sport, a Vancouver-based foundation for athletes and NSOs, powered the logistics of the Boccia Throwdown.  Moksha Yoga East Vancouver, Hootsuite, Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Anthony Seamen Ltd., Charity Express, Benefic, Peer Giving Solutions and Investors Group sent teams to battle each other at Creekside Community Centre in indoor boccia action, raising funds for Canada’s best boccia players.

“Investors Group considers it an honour to support Canada’s elite athletes like Josh Vander Vies through our Investors Group Bursary program,” said Sharon Moskalyk, Vice President, Financial Services.  “When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of a community fundraiser like the Boccia Throwdown for one of our bursary recipients, we were thrilled to participate.  Challenging the other team is great fun when you have Josh as your partner and coach!”

Boccia is a precision sport, similar to lawn bowling, curling and chess, played indoors in over 50 countries and is one of the three Paralympic sports that do not have an Olympic counterpart.  It is one of the most inclusive sports that exist: an elegant game that combines strategy and skill with physical precision, not necessarily strength.

The Boccia Throwdown also enjoyed significant online donations from fans that could not attend or simply spectated.  Maria Senajova, Realtor at RE/MAX Crest Realty Westside said, ”when I saw Canada’s top boccia players in action and the precise skill it takes to be the best in the world, I felt pride knowing they live in my community and with our support they go beyond their limits and beyond our own. I’ve gained a new appreciation for our Canadian elite athletes; supporting them is such an honour.  I am already looking forward to the next Throwdown”.

Online donations will remain open at https://chimp.net/groups/boccia-throwdown until September 19 at 1pm when Vander Vies will announce the total funds raised at a small ceremony at Suite 1250 – 1500 West Georgia Street; the media is invited and encouraged to attend.


PHOTOS – click link for high definition.  Please credit: “Photo: Champions in Sport”


Canadian athletes from the national boccia, women’s field hockey, and athletics teams face-off in indoor boccia as team “Jack Smashers” against team “Drunken Debocciery” from Benefic, Peer Giving Solutions and Charity Express.  Photo: Champions in Sport
A player from Moksha Yoga East Vancouver’s “Todd and the Hot Toddies” team has fun planning her shot as Hootsuite’s team “FunBoys” looks on.  Photo: Champions in Sport
Paralympic bronze medalist Josh Vander Vies takes time to pose mid-game with his opponents, after being challenged to a match by members of the Canadian women’s field hockey team.

8 Teams Confirmed So Far for Boccia Throwdown!

The countdown is on.  8 teams have taken on the fundraising and impending indoor boccia challenge – to help fuel the Canadian Boccia Team to international podiums.  There are only 8 days left to either throw your hat in the ring (boccia court!) by signing up a team of up to 6, or donating online to support the Boccia Throwdown! or individual teams.

You can team-up with the Canadian Boccia Team three ways:

1. Share this blog post with your social media networks.
2. Form a team of up to 6 players and party with us on August 29 from 5-7pm at 1 Athletes Way Vancouver.  Register here.
3. Donate to one of the teams below and help them chase top fundraiser glory, or to the event itself.  Keep scrolling for details.

Apparently boccia team names allow for some serious creativity.  We on the national team thought we had all of the boccia ball puns locked down and figured out!  Think again.  If you like one of these team names, or the people and businesses powering them, click and donate online – “Chimp them” – and get an online tax receipt automatically.

Each team has to raise $500 to compete.  Eternal glory is up for grabs to the winner of the indoor boccia tournament, and the top fundraiser.  Here are the competitors in order of entry.

Mission Imbocceball

Canadian Sport Institute Pacific


Foxy Boccia Dolls and Balls



Total Debocciery

Anthony-Seaman Ltd. – Sawmill Consulting Engineers





Todd and the Hot Toddies

Moksha Yoga East Vancouver


Love is a Boccia Field

Access Driver Rehab Specialists


Wham Bam Thank You Ham



Drunken Deboccery

Benevoland: Peer Giving, Charity Express, and Benefic


Can’t decide which team gets your donation?

Click this photo of members of the Canadian Boccia Team on the podium at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico – one of our best tournaments ever – to donate to the event itself. We want even more amazing medal moments like these.


Vancouver Boccia Throwdown! 2013

Being a Canadian elite athlete is expensive.  This summer I am raising funds in Vancouver for the Canadian boccia team, as it heads down the grueling road to Rio 2016.  The goal is to have a lot of fun along the way.

The poster sums it up nicely. Play indoor boccia.  Wrestle your boss. Win a ham. Have a blast. Support a great cause.

Boccia is one of the most inclusive sports that exist – any ability level can play – and it is fantastic team building and recreation.  On August 29, 2013 at 1 Athletes Way, Vancouver we are inviting teams to come and have a fun evening while supporting our national team.  There will be drinks, boccia, sumo suits, a meat raffle and so on, at the community centre gym in the Olympic Village.

A $500 donation is the minimum per team.   To register go to http://bit.ly/b-throwdown – spots are limited.

Can’t make the event?  Support our Canadian boccia team by donating whatever you can here: http://chim.pn/11LOOcs

Next time you see one of us on a podium, know that you helped put us there.