Whitehorse musician Gordie Tentrees is a big supporter of local para wheelchair racer Jessica Frotten.
He wants to help her reach the international level and make the Paralympic Games with a fundraiser.
“I don’t know her personally at all,” admits Tentrees. “I first heard about her accident in 2009 from mutual friends that she and I have. And I’ve been following her progress in the paper and thought I’d like to do a yearly concert in Whitehorse to give back to the community, to do something to get involved in my community.
“I was thinking, ‘What’s the first thing I can do, to do something for the place I live?’
“I kept reading about her all summer in the paper and I thought, ‘I wonder if she needs help with anything?’”
Tentrees, who released his album North Country Heart last year, plans to use his country and blues music to raise money for Frotten. He will hold a benefit concert called Speedraiser: Songs for Frotten next month at the Old Fire Hall in Whitehorse. He has also started an online fundraising drive.
“It blew me away,” said Frotten. “He sent me an email and said he’d like to do a show in Whitehorse and he wanted to donate all the proceeds to something he believed in.
“I was just like, Woo, that’s amazing that someone would want to do that.”
Tentrees’ goal is to raise $7,500. Part of the funds will cover Frotten’s travel expenses as she heads to her first international event in Switzerland next spring, the Canadian track nationals in Muncton, N.B., and other meets.
“Right now I’m kind of in limbo,” said Frotten.
“I’m trying to make it on the national team and be a carded athlete, so there would be more funding out there for me. Right now I’m just the little guy out there trying to get into that.
“Getting into some international races and doing well and really showing I’m a speedy racer, that’s going to help me make it to the Olympics.”
The remainder of the funds will go towards buying a new racing chair for Frotten. The chair she currently uses is from the Regina Racing Club. She moved to Regina for the First Steps Wellness Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living with spinal-cord injuries.
When Frotten competed at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. this August – winning three bronze medals – she was a member of Team Saskatchewan.
“Right now I just rent a chair … It belongs to the racing club,” said Frotten. “To have my own, I’d be more of a free agent.”
“There’s nowhere to train in Whitehorse, but if I go to another Canada Games or a western Games, I could be on Team Yukon if they wanted me,” she added. “That would be awesome if I could race for the Yukon.
“Once I get into that international level, the Olympic level, I’ll just be wearing the red and white.”
Frotten is coming home a little earlier for Christmas in order to attend the concert on Dec. 10 at the Old Fire Hall.
“I get a little extra time at home, I like that,” said Frotten.
Speedraiser tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre box office and at www.yukontickets.com.
People can also make donations to the Frotten fund by going to www.indiegogo.com and entering “Frotten” in the search bar.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” said Frotten. “I don’t know how I’m going to thank that guy … He’s just an amazing guy.”
Frotten became a paraplegic in a car accident on the Alaska Highway outside of Whitehorse in December 2009.
Tentrees, who is originally from Hamilton, Ont., is heading out on a European tour next February.
“I’ve often thought how supportive the Yukon has been for me the last 15 years, and I thought this is a chance to do something for my community,” said Tentrees. “I’ve been watching her, seeing what she’s doing, and I think she’s inspiring and amazing.”
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