This month, we have got a fascinating story to share about Harbour Side Youth Foundation (HSY) and the incredible journey that the founder Sharon Thielmann has been on that led her to establish HSY.
Sharon found her inspiration for HSY through her own battle with addiction, by channelling her energy into CrossFit. In essence, she traded in her unhealthy addictions for a very healthy one! In her mid-50s, Sharon took up competing in CrossFit and even continued into her early 60s. Her proudest moment was placing 25th in the women’s worldwide CrossFit games and placing first in the women’s Canada West division. However, it wasn’t just the medals that made a difference. The friendships and support she found within the CrossFit community helped transform her into the active and vibrant woman she is today.
Retirement wasn’t on Sharon’s radar. She knew she had more to give, so she followed her heart. Sharon saw the incredible impact that CrossFit had on her own life and wanted to share that with underserved youth. She started reaching out to CrossFit gyms and planning fundraiser events where youth could attend the gym, and the funds sponsored them to train. Sharon believed that being part of the CrossFit community could do wonders for these youth, way beyond physical exercise. It was about giving them a sense of belonging, improving their health, and offering them impactful mentorship. She knew firsthand how commitment and accountability could change someone’s path for the better.
Looking ahead, Sharon’s big vision for HSY is to partner with inner-city schools. She wants to create lunchtime or after-school programs where youth can go to nearby CrossFit gyms. The foundation would sponsor the space, equipment and coach for the training to cover the cost for the students. Currently, there are periods when CrossFit gyms are not holding any classes, and Sharon sees that as an opportunity for the program to occur in that given time. She also imagined organizing CrossFit competitions at these partner gyms, with affordable entry fees and all the proceeds going straight to the foundation. It’s a fantastic way to raise funds and make sure more kids have access to this life-changing experience. When attending the CrossFit gym three to four times a week, sponsoring a youth costs around $120-$170 monthly. For families that are underserved and cannot afford this cost, this is not an opportunity even possible for their children.
Right now, the youth who receive sponsorship are selected when the CrossFit gym owners approach Sharon and vouch for them. These owners are deeply involved in their communities and understand the positive impact that training can have on young lives. To be sponsored means they spend more time in a safe and driven environment, limiting the likelihood of getting involved in substances and gangs at an early age. The mentors can speak life and encouragement into the youth, moving them to become more than their current circumstances allow.
Sharon has such a wonderful perspective on generosity. She believes it comes from a place of humility and kindness which everyone shows in different ways. Through Sharon’s walk of founding HSY, every donation, big or small, touches her deeply and she is always quick to express her heartfelt gratitude. It’s truly humbling for her to see the support pouring in, especially from her incredible board members. They bring diverse skills and talents to the table, forming a united team with a shared passion for HSY’s mission.
Though HSY is a non-profit entity they do not have the ability to issue donation tax receipts to donors, and that’s where a partnership with GiveWise comes in. Through GiveWise, HSY can receive donations and an immediate tax receipt is provided to the donors. It’s been a gamechanger, freeing up Sharon and her team to focus on expanding their CrossFit sponsorship program. They’re constantly seeking new connections with CrossFit gyms and building their online presence. Sharon has learned so much through this entrepreneurial journey, and she’s committed to making a difference—one day at a time.
Note: This post originally appeared on the Givewise blog.