Andre De Grasse
Canadian sprinter and Olympic gold medallist
Canadian sprinter and Olympic gold medallist Andre De Grasse talks about giving back to the community and using his platform to inspire and empower youth.
What inspired you to create the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation?
Early in my career, when I was getting started in track, I benefited from mentorship and financial support that helped me progress in the sport and ultimately earn a university scholarship and graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). As a result, I created the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation to have an enduring platform to inspire and empower young people to become champions in sports and life, similar to myself. The foundation is focused on providing access to sports, education, and health care. In addition, we work with partner organizations to remove obstacles that sometimes get in the way of young people reaching their potential.
What are some significant milestones that the foundation has reached thus far?
In 2018, we launched the Andre De Grasse Future Champions Scholarship Program in conjunction with Athletics Canada. The program identifies talented high school track and field athletes who stand to benefit from enhanced coaching, mentorship, and financial support to position them to earn university scholarships. It’s an amazing feeling to see these young people earn scholarships to top universities where they can pursue their ambitions on the track and in the classroom and reach their own unique potential.
In the spring of 2021, when kids were learning from home due to COVID-19, we launched the Race With Me Challenge to inspire kids to get back on track. Thousands of young people across Canada went to their local 400-metre track and worked on lowering their time week after week. Along the way, we also raised money for Kids Help Phone through participants and corporate sponsors. We did it again in 2022. On June 23, which marks Olympic Day, I was joined by fellow Olympians and Paralympians for an inspirational Olympic Day webinar viewed by tens of thousands of teachers and students.
Just ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, I published an illustrated children’s book, Race With Me! Signed copies are available at racewithme.ca, with proceeds going to my foundation.
Over the holidays, I’ll be hosting the Andre De Grasse Holiday Classic youth basketball tournament. This is the fourth edition of the tournament, allowing me to engage directly with kids and parents around a sport I love.
This past September, I launched my wine label, which has been branded “Andre De Grasse 19.62,” to commemorate my Olympic gold medal time in the 200-metre event in Tokyo. Five dollars from each bottle sold goes to my foundation. You can order your own bottle at degrassewine.com.
Why do you feel it’s important to invest in our local and global communities?
Competing and succeeding at the highest level, including the Olympics, attracts attention from people all around the world. It provides an opportunity to shine a light on challenges that people face and to have an impact by leveraging your platform. Although I race all around the world, the work of my foundation has been focused in Canada and within the Greater Toronto Area where I grew up. You can’t forget where you come from and know that you can be a role model and invest in people who can see themselves in you.
What advice would you share with someone who wants to make a meaningful difference in society? What are a few different ways to do so?
I believe in the power of reciprocal inspiration. I get energy from the fans and love to hear their stories, especially when I’ve inspired them to be active, pursue their dreams, and get through tough times. This has taught me that you can make a difference in people’s lives and that energy will push you to do more and create a bigger impact. I started by volunteering with my brother when I was a teenager. As a 16-year-old, I took public transit to a mission in Regent Park and created sports programs there to keep myself and the kids there busy and away from trouble. I built friendships and started to make a difference. It was as much for the youth in the mission as it was for me. This mutual inspiration can make a difference, starting with just a few people up to the tens of millions that cheer me on at the Olympics. It’s never too early or too late to start.