When Okanagan REALTOR® Jaxon Jurome was asked to help promote fundraising events for the YMCA of Okanagan—shortly before the start of the pandemic—he was poised and ready for the starting gun.
Jurome is an elite athlete and ambassador for sport in Central Okanagan, actively racing in Ironman, cycling and triathlon events both locally and around the world. In 2019, he raced in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in France, with plans to race in future competitions.
Furthermore, he’s well known in the community as a landscape artist, with his work displayed in art shows throughout the Okanagan Valley. Inspired by nature, he packs each painting with positive energy, and in 2020 he teamed up with the Kelowna Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association to raise awareness of mental health, donating 10% of the proceeds of each painting and print to CMHA Kelowna.
Jurome values the lifelong foundations that childhood participation in sports creates for developing minds and bodies. “As an athlete who had that privilege growing up, who had that access to programs that so many of us take for granted, I felt I had to jump in,” he said, “knowing the importance of physical activity and community—especially for our kids.”
“The Y provides so many programs for youth, families and seniors, but it relies on financial assistance to run these programs,” said Jurome. Whether that’s afterschool programs or swimming lessons, the Y provides essential programming to low-income families and vulnerable youth that helps build character, strength and leadership skills. It also provides childcare and career development services.
When the pandemic hit, the Y’s fundraising events were put on indefinite hold. At the same time, the Y needed those funds more than ever. One in five children need financial assistance to participate in its programs, and without fundraising events, the Y’s ability to provide that financial assistance was in jeopardy.
Cycle for Strong Kids, a team spin event, is the YMCA of Okanagan’s largest annual fundraiser—and the need for donations was urgent. Given the need, matched with the ongoing pandemic, organizers decided to run the event a little bit differently in 2021.
“We wanted to make it more inclusive to the community, so we opened it up to other activities,” said Jurome. This year’s virtual YMCA Cycle for Strong Kids ‘Your Way’ event included more than 75 participants from the community, who ran, hiked and biked on May 30th in support of the Y’s Strong Kids Campaign. Participants got creative with their virtual fundraising activities, ranging from family hikes, rail-trail bike rides, outdoor Zumba sessions and, in Jurome’s case, a full marathon run.
Jurome mapped out a 42.2-kilometre marathon that connected the H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre, the Downtown Y and the Kelowna Family Y. During the marathon, he stopped at each location to highlight some of the critical community services it provides—which he livestreamed over social media—to expand the reach of his charitable endeavors.
The event raised $60,000 that day, with another $8,000 raised during a raffle.
As a result, hundreds of local vulnerable children will be able to access Y programs, including summer camps, afterschool and youth leadership programs, swimming lessons, health memberships and other life-changing programs that many families simply can’t afford on their own.
Many charities are struggling to meet their financial goals during the pandemic since people can’t necessarily be as generous as they’d like to be. Jurome was happy to meet the Y’s financial target, “but raising awareness is almost equally as important,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know how much the YMCA does, and being able to go virtual this year, we were able to expand our reach by other means as well—it’s a win-win.”
“I was just really blown away by the community support overall. We didn’t think we would hit the goal at all, given how hard it is for charities right now,” said Jurome. “But as we put the message out there about how important this cause is, especially during the pandemic—how important the community is, how important staying active is—it’s so amazing to see how generous and caring our community is even during tough times.”
Between training for elite athletic events and using his artistic talents to raise awareness for mental health in the community, he not only makes time to give back but encourages others to do the same. “Give back if you have a chance,” he said, “because it always kickstarts a chain reaction.”