Maine Winter Sports Center
looks for new avenues of funding
By Theron Larkins
CARIBOU — After 15 years of financial backing, the Libra Foundation has decided to cut ties with the Maine Winter Sports Center, as of April 1st. With all financial contributions set to cease at the end of the current fiscal year, MWSC officials are preparing to aim their sights on the new challenge of fundraising, which thanks to the Libra Fund’s generosity over the last decade and a half, MWSC has not had to focus a great deal on until now.
The MWSC that produced Olympian, Russell Currier, and has had unrivaled success in training many more world-class winter athletes over the years, has unfortunately lost the financial support from the Portland-based philanthropic organization that helped give the center its start. The Libra Fund has distributed more than $30 million to MWSC over the 15-year period, and Libra Fund officials now feel the non-profit organization is ready to stand on its own two feet, or perhaps its own two skis, in this case.
The question now arising from those concerned with MWSC’s future is “Where will the funding now come from?” Andy Shepard, MWSC president and CEO, said they will be beginning a $500,000 fund-raising campaign to ensure that the center will continue to operate next year. He will be contacting foundations, individuals and corporations to look for funding sources. Shepard also announced that MWSC is launching an online fund-raising campaign on the MWSC website.
“We have been speaking with some of Maine’s larger foundations, private individuals and have started an online fund-raising campaign from our website.”
The next few months will be critical for MWSC, as they try to raise the estimated $550,000 needed to keep the program’s doors open. Two World Class venues in Fort Kent and Presque Isle and thousands of youngsters on skis in 140 communities in the Healthy Hometowns Program, as well as several developmental skiers competing in national and international competitions could be affected by the cut in funding. However, Shepard is determined to find new revenue streams in order for the center to continue the outstanding work it has done for winter athletes not only in Maine, but across the country.
“We are committed to raising the funding necessary to move forward. The staff and I are focused on planning for next year and I don’t believe the communities will see any change in the programming currently being offered,” said Shepard.
Shepard said he is confident that when people look at the success of the program they will want to get involved and help maintain the success they have already experienced, from Russell Currier establishing himself as the first “home grown” Olympian produced by MWSC to the young Olympic hopefuls practicing and perfecting their craft in communities from Eliot to Fort Kent and Farmington to the outer isles. Shepard said he will be working tirelessly over the next couple of months in the hopes of finding enough funding to keep the center operating beyond April.
“Given the impact we have had in Maine over our first 15 years I am confident people will step up to ensure we can continue to make a difference,” said Shepard.
Anyone looking to make a donation to MWSC can call the center at 492-1444 or visit the website at www.mainewsc.org.