When Sharon Perry was growing up in Squamish and then Comox, she played pretty much every sport available to her — volleyball, basketball, cross-country, track & field, softball and swimming.
Now the successful Coquitlam accountant works to ensure other kids — including her own — have those same opportunities.
Perry says she’s always made a point of giving back to her community by supporting various local causes and organizations, like the Coquitlam and Port Moody Firefighters’ charitable societies and the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation.
But it’s youth sports that really stir her passion.
Perry’s name and distinctive lavender branding are a fixture on three Zamboni ice cleaners, as well as the rink boards, at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex.
She recently donated $110,000 toward construction of a scoreboard for the new turf field at Centennial Secondary.
She also helped pay for the uniforms for the senior girls’ basketball team at the school and she’s been a sponsor at Coquitlam Little League since 2013, helping support the Blastball program for young players just starting out, as well as improvements to facilities like the concession stands, the installation of security shutters on the clubhouse and the acquisition of a portable scoreboard.
Along with her long-time support of KidSport Tri-Cities, there’s unlikely any young athlete in Coquitlam who hasn’t been touched in some way by Perry’s generosity.
You might even say she’s the First Mom of Coquitlam sports.
Perry said her own involvement in sport at a young age laid the foundation for her future business success. She loved travelling to tournaments, meeting kids from other schools and forging the bonds that come from being part of a team.
Perry said she thrived in the confidence and self-discipline sports brought to her life.
As her business burgeoned and her own growing family took to the fields, courts and diamonds, Perry said she wanted to ensure everyone could experience sport’s benefits.
“I was able to witness firsthand some of the needs these organizations have and also how fulfilling sport was to the kids and their families,” she said.
“I wanted to make this more accessible to families.”
Perry said her support for youth sport complements her other community endeavours because sport is a building block of community.
“Sports bring a community together and builds camaraderie amongst neighbours.”
Tali Campbell, general manager of the Coquitlam Express, said support from community champions like Perry doesn’t go unnoticed by his players.
“I think as they reach this level of hockey they start to understand what sports has done for them so far in life,” he said. “When you reach the BCHL you are a good hockey player and now you start to learn more about the inner workings of how teams operate, the sponsor side of things, fans, etc., and those things are what community champions do like Sharon.”
KidSport’s Chris Wilson said Perry’s aid to the organization goes beyond dollars and cents.
He said her involvement “enhances the non-profit’s reputation and legitimacy in the community which can lead to broader support long-term.”
Anthony Ciolfitto principal at Centennial Secondary where two of Perry’s kids have been active in school sports programs and a third is on the way, said her leadership is the best kind of community for students to emulate.
Perry said sports’ value was particularly apparent during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when public health restrictions shut down most organized activities.
She said the loss of the structures and routines of going to practices, getting ready for games and travelling to tournaments were tough on her family; she could only imagine the challenges of others.
So, when the whistles blew and it was game on again, Perry said she was more than ready to pick up her own participation where it had been left off.
“The involvement since the COVID-19 restrictions loosened has been based on where the support can help best and make the most impact.”
Perry said seeing her name on the Zamboni as it cleans the ice between periods of a Coquitlam Express game, or watching her own three kids play their sports in shiny, new uniforms she helped pay for isn’t about personal gratification.
She said she’s proud of her community and she hopes her efforts might serve as encouragement for others to follow her lead.
There’s no downside, Perry said, and the upside is unlimited.
“We are a vibrant and amazing community with so much to offer,” she said. “We can only make it better.”