Arm-twisting isn’t an officially recognized sport, but some people take it to hall of fame levels just the same.

So, when Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame went looking for someone to lead an $8-million endowment
campaign, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, 18th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, was at the top of the list.

“Nobody says ‘no’ to Lois,” said Cheryl Bernard, CEO of the Hall of Fame. “It was a no-brainer.”

The campaign was launched in June and the money has already started to flow, with $1 million received and another $1 million committed. Bernard said Mitchell will provide leadership and lend profile to the campaign as the Hall raises money to fund operations and educational programming for schools across the country. The idea is to leave the principal intact and spend only the interest on program and staffing costs and expansion, technology and operations for years to come.

“Lois has been a good friend to the hall, and she’s a person who is focused on education and sport,” said Bernard. “Families and corporations want to donate to something that will last, so education is key. You educate youth on the invaluable lessons of sport. Philanthropic families get that. This is an investment in Canada and in our future.”

The Hall produces curriculum-aligned educational videos that combine Hall of Famers, their stories and their artifacts, at a cost of about $35,000 per, then uploads them to where they can be accessed by educators at no cost. The Hall also facilitates school visits for some of its honoured members.

The educational component was important to Mitchell, whose late husband Doug was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his contributions to Canadian football.

“I believe the most profound attribute we learn through sport is adaptability. You learn quickly from winning and losing to assess and ask yourself what went well, and what you could have improved upon. That’s a great skill to learn for everything in life. Every game you play there’s something you can learn,” said Lois.

Bernard said the Hall of Fame is about halfway through the process of shipping its 100,000 artifacts from Calgary to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. The treasure trove became too expensive to house, especially since the Hall of Fame does not receive federal or provincial funding. Instead, a partnership was formed with the Museum of History, which has the space and public funding necessary to store the items.

“It has just come down to a business decision,” said Bernard. “We were seeing a decline in people wandering through museums. We became less about a building. A shift has taken place over the last number of years. For us, museums, to achieve our objectives, we have to be less about one physical place and focus on reaching beyond our walls.”

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