10 CANMORE LEADER NEWS Thursday, January 16, 2003
Recovering Irwin spearheading fundraiser

  Dave Irwin spent 11 years on the Canadian Downhill Ski Team. He competed in two Olympic Winter Games and is in five Canadian sports halls of fame. He was the reason they dubbed the Canadian ski team the Crazy Canucks.

  But forget all that.

  The Dave Irwin Brain Injury Foundation's first Dash for Cash event on March 8 is not about self-promotion or glorifying the individual. The gran slalom event at Sunshine Village is about having fun and raising money for a good cause.

  When Irwin crashed at a Sunshine Village skier-cross in March 2001 and suffered a near-fatal brain injury, needless to say, things changed.

  "Totally. It's changed my life, totally", he says.

  "Some people's lives change, my life changed totally, completely, instantly - totally changed."

  Irwin went from the busy life of ski racing, buying, and selling real estate and running his own business to sleeping 11 hours a night, with his his days spent focussing on recovery.  
 It may be a little early to undertake events like Dash for Cash, admits the formaer ski racer, but he wants to use what he knows best to help others with similar injuries.

  And now's the time for action, says Irwin, with a new foundation that sports his name, and looks to raise public awareness of brain injury, further research and provide grants to those in need.

  "It's the Dave Irwin Brain Injury Foundation. It's a company now being set up, and we're going to make money. And when we make money, we're going to give it back to beain injury people," explains Irwin.

  "When you get brain injured, what happens? Right away you lose your licence. Right away, you start going for therapy. Where do you go for therapy? Calgary. Calgary's a long drive, and if you can't drive, who drive's you?"  In Irwin's case, he's fortunate have fiancée Lynee Harrison make the trip with him every week to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. It's also Harrison who helps Irwin with the adminstrative side of his new venture.

  He met Harrison less than a year before his tragic accident.

  "She came, and she stayed," Irwin says of the women he calls a "godsend"

  "And that was the amazing thing - that she stayed"   While the Dave Irwin Brain Injury Foundation hasn't even registered
 as a business yet, sponsors have already started to approach Irwin wanting to help out with Dash for Cash.

  The committee has raised $20,000 in prize money so far.

"This is going to be our first event, and these guys are jumping on board like this is our last event. And it's great," he says of the overwhelming support.

Now all Irwin needs is 50 team captains willing to pay the $1,000 entry fee to get the ball rolling.

  For Irwin, who organized World Cup downhill events at Sunshine Village, this event is something totally different. Instead of focussing on individual athletes, Dash for Cash will about creating a great day.

  "In this event, you want to be there. You want to get

other people involved, other people excited, other people active - you want to get as many people as you can that are interested active in the day. And you want them to perform the best they can," says Irwin.
"It's not you performing a lot that day. It's you creating something that can perform a lot that day."  
 Irwin hopes to see at least half of the 200 competitors claim a prize the day of the event. Recognition will be given for the top team, the fastest male and female, the slowest team, the slowest individual and the fastest over 60 years of age, to name a few.

  Next year he hopes to see the Dash for Cash get even bigger and better.

  Eventually, Irwin says, he plans to go back to work at his Canmore business, Mountain Image. He tries to work now, but finds it hard to focus. But slowly, he says, he's improving.

  "I need something," explains Irwin of the road to recovery.

  "I need impressions. I need people. I need love. I need life. I need people being in my life, changing who I am. And that's good. I need that."