By RON FANFAIR
Shelley-Ann Brown’s Olympic silver medal has not translated into much since teaming up with Helen Upperton in the two-woman bobsledding competition at the Vancouver Winter Games last February.
She has just one endorsement to show for the hard work and Olympic glory. A few months ago, Saint Cinnamon’s founding president Andy Winter announced during the opening of a new franchise in Pickering where the Olympian resides that the company is committing a portion of its original rolls sold this year to her.
Brown is obviously disappointed and frustrated by the lack of corporate financial support. Then again, she was not expecting much, if anything, since she had to use mostly her resources and money from fundraisers to prepare for the Games.
What she was however anticipating was a fruitful trip to earthquake-ravaged Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic in May. The three-week trip, she said, turned out to be a lifetime experience she will always cherish.
Brown spent 10 days in Jacmel with Plan Canada volunteers, creating a safety zone for young children to engage in educational and physical activities. The group included award-winning actress Ngozi Paul.
“Coming off the Olympic high, landing in Haiti and seeing the devastation was something that you could never prepare for,” said Brown. “The destruction was immense and unbelievable. At the same time, it was an enriching experience for me to be among people, almost all of them deprived of any material possessions. They however have a lot of hope and faith that’s sustaining them.
“It was a change of pace for me and what I witnessed there really put life in perspective.”
Brown said the Haiti trip was planned last November.
“I did not hesitate to go through with the visit even after watching the massive destruction,” she said. “And I am happy I went there. The people are warm despite the hardships they face and some of them reminded me of my own family.
“In addition, the country is unbelievably beautiful. We see clips of Haiti on TV and think it’s a run down place. That’s far from the truth. I saw some of the most luscious landscapes I have ever witnessed anywhere during my travels.”
Brown, who has a Masters in Education Psychology, also spent time in the Dominican Republic volunteering with Ambassadors for Christ. She taught English and oversaw the creation of a summer camp similar to the Camp EDIFY (Education and Direction of Intelligent & Fit Youth) day camp run out of Grace Apostolic Church in Scarborough that she created five years ago.
The former track star has broken a pre-Olympic pledge to quit bobsledding after the Olympics and is preparing for next year’s world championships in Koenigsee, Germany.
She has set up base at Variety Village, training almost two hours daily. She plans to complete her training in Calgary.
“It’s nice to be back in the Greater Toronto Area and trying to make things work here,” said the University of Nebraska graduate. “I have not spent a Canada Day at home for the past 10 years.”