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Meet Bella! Presented by SMS Equipment

Dave Stearman
BY Dave Stearman
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As the Great One once said, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take,” and that’s why Bella is shooting for the stars this February.

Between workouts, promo events and committee meetings, I finally had the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive meet and greet with BELLA – your 2018 Alberta Winter Games (AWG) mascot. As the Mascot Chair, I felt excited – but also a little nervous. BELLA isn’t any ordinary mascot...she’s “our” mascot – Fort McMurray’s very own.

BELLA started off nameless until the spring of 2017 when a contest opened to local youth who submitted suggestions.  Be Excellent as a Life Long Athlete (BELLA) was chosen by the promotions committee.

Putting on the Games requires the effort of hundreds of individuals. From sponsors, volunteers, workers, and supporters, the Alberta Winter Games are no administrative walk in the park. While BELLA is a lone buffalo in her field, she’s found herself surrounded by the support of an entire community and fellow mascot peers. This was evident last September as we celebrated the 150 Days Out - Mascot Games presented by Keyano College. Hosted at the Syncrude Sport and Wellness Centre, home of the Keyano Huskies, BELLA found herself in a gymnasium full of her best friends, supporters, and colleagues. Acting with true sportsmanship, the Mascot Games welcomed mascots from all over our community and invited them to participate in friendly games of dodgeball, tug of war, obstacle racing and of course dance! While winners were made, and lines were very literally crossed (tug of war), friendship, celebration and the promotion of the Games was the goal. However, this night wasn’t just about the celebration of friendship or promotion. BELLA had an she had been keeping for quite some time!

In any professional sport, one needs a key supporter; someone they can trust; someone to coach them; someone to guide them “on the ice and off the ice” so to speak. In their search for that key supporter, BELLA and the AWG staff didn’t have to search far.

So on the evening of the Mascot Games, BELLA announced her partnership with SMS Equipment. This announcement came with a great amount of excitement for the folks down at the AWG office. SMS Equipment was a perfect match for the positivity and excitement that BELLA emanates.

As the mascot chair and a keen supporter of objective research, I decided to explore this partnership...I wanted to know more. Thankfully, during our meet and greet, I had the opportunity to chat with Larry Gouthro, the General Manager of SMS Equipment.

I asked Larry what intrigued SMS most about sponsoring BELLA the AWG mascot.

“After the AWG management team approached SMS in regards to being included in this great event for our community, we looked at the different options for sponsorships. We all aligned very quickly with sponsoring BELLA. It’s exactly the right exposure for SMS in our community. We knew that by the time the Games were on, BELLA would be well recognized in the community, and having SMS’s involvement just made sense.  We have over 300 families in the community, and giving back to Fort McMurray has been, and continues to be, very important to our organization,” replied Larry.

I then asked what SMS hopes BELLA will accomplish as the Games mascot.

“Well, BELLA has been out a lot in our community already. She’s put in a lot of work. She’s been at SMS, on social media and people associate the mascot with the games and RMWB as a hole. It is great for us to be a part of this event which will have provincial exposure,” Larry explained.

Finally, I asked Larry why Fort McMurray is an excellent place to host the 2018 AWG and what role SMS feels they can play as a vital sponsor to the games and for BELLA.

“Fort McMurray has invested heavily in our community in regards to recreational facilities, which we are proud to say are of world-class caliber.  SMS is also a major sponsor of Mac Island (SMS Stadium) which some of the events will be taking place at.  We have proven as a community over the past few years that we are resilient and can pull off hosting large events like this.  We anticipate this event being a huge success and something the athletes will remember for a long time!”

With resounding support and encouragement, it was very clear that there was a lot of positive energy in the room during our meet and greet. Watching BELLA inch her way closer to the door, I could tell she was eager to show me her daily routine.

BELLA had a scheduled weight training appointment and could not be late. Not only is she determined, she has a very strict schedule! First, she begins with a 10-minute circuit sprint on the elliptical, then moves over to free weights and finally ends the session off with a relaxing massage. While accompanying her, I kept asking myself, “Is this really necessary? I mean, she’s only just a mascot.” And just as I said it, I remembered, mascots spend their day running up grandstands, crouching to hug kids, skipping along sidewalks and performing activities of all sorts! Of course, she needs to be in shape!

With only a few moments left in our day together, it was clear that BELLA means business. While the Alberta Winter Games celebrate the spirit of sport, BELLA has truly adopted the principles of what it takes for our athletes to succeed in this province. If they were to balance the tribulations of competition, she was to stand by them in their quest to achieve all that is possible. By the end of our day, BELLA had helped me understand the broader details of the work she does. It’s not just about community engagement or sport. It’s sometimes about the present moment and people we meet along the way.

A more truthful sentiment can’t be made, as I follow her on such adventures as the Fort McMurray parade. Being a mascot is a tough gig. Children look to you for attention, affection, and entertainment while the community looks to you for support. It’s all in a day’s work for this girl. And she does it with ease.

As we end our day, BELLA hugs me and motions to the calendar. Circled in bright red is February 16th - 19th. She’s ready. She’s excited. But most importantly, she’s here for you, Fort McMurray.