Gage Ferguson, 8, unveiled as Spence's head sponsor
WENGEN, Switzerland–An eight-year-old boy from Calgary, Alberta, was the talk of the ski racing world here on Sunday when he was unveiled as Canada's Brad Spence’s sponsor in front of thousands of fans.
Gage Ferguson had his Christmas wish to become his hero’s personal sponsor granted when the Calgary-based ski racer arranged to wear a special helmet sticker bearing the boy’s name at one of the world’s most famous races. KLM, one Alpine Canada’s sponsors, stepped up to fly the boy and his family to Switzerland for the 82nd International Lauberhorn event and on Sunday, Gage was given special permission by the International Ski Federation (FIS) to watch the World Cup slalom race from the finish area.
The boy, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, greeted Spence with a hug at the bottom of the hill, a special moment that was captured on the jumbotron, to the delight of fans.
“In a world where sponsorship is so closely tied to corporations, giving Gage the opportunity to be my sponsor without the monetary value involved was really special for me and special for him, too,” said Spence, 27. “It was an opportunity to show him that’s anything possible if you have a dream. That’s the message I hope he takes with him.”
Gage, who first met Spence after the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, started saving money in his piggy bank when he heard Spence was looking for a “headgear sponsor.” He sent Spence a letter and made a video, asking if the World Cup skier could fulfill his dream of becoming his sponsor. At a press conference in Calgary on Dec. 23, Spence announced he would grant the boy’s Christmas wish. The money Gage saved in his piggy bank–a total of $149.39–has been donated to the Branch Out Foundation, which raises funds for research into therapy for neurological disorders with the aim of finding a cure for the various complications of the nervous system.
Gage's mother, Jenn Ferguson, a teacher said Spence is a wonderful role model for her son. He's been to Gage's school to talk about racing and will pick him up from the playground to make him feel "special." She added through tears in the finish area: “There are just not words for Brad.”
The Ferguson family has never been outside of Canada. Gage was joined on the trip by his mom Jenn, dad Chris and 15-year-old sister Alyssa. FIS granted the boy and his mom special dispensation to wait for Spence in the finish area—where traditionally only accredited team members, staff or officials are allowed to stand. Jenn Ferguson said the experience was “amazing, surreal and incredible.”
“He was so excited, jumping up and down and cheering on his hero as he came down,” said Jenn of her son, a student at Calgary Academy. “As Brad skied to the entry way, Gage ran out and gave him this big squishy hug. How often do you get a dream to come true and your son to be the hero? With everything we’ve experienced through KLM and Alpine Canada, it’s just been unbelievable.”
Spence finished 21st in Sunday’s slalom.
“When I poked my head around the corner (at the finish line) he was just kind of buzzing with excitement,” Spence said. “I don’t think I’ll forget that feeling for a long time.”
“It was great–the best,” Gage said. “It’s like having a birthday in Switzerland. It’s awesome. Coolio-cool and awesomest-awesome.”