By Greg Amos

Special to The Pioneer

A new billboard on Highway 93/95 isnt just a means for local ski racer Manny Osborne-Paradis to thank his sponsors its also a sign of the ongoing support for a local man caught in an avalanche in March.

Manny purchased the four-month billboard rental at the Courageous Hearts silent auction and dance at Copper Point on Saturday, April 19th, an event that was held primarily to benefit Syndicate Boardshop co-owner Jer Donald as he recovers from the accident.

The south-facing billboard, found north of the crossroads of Highway 93/95 and Athalmer Road, features a shot of the Invermere-raised Olympic ski racer in action, along with names and logos of 11 sponsors including Right to Play, Harbour Air Seaplanes and Komperdell. The sign went up a few weeks ago and will stay in place until at least October, and possibly longer.

Jer and Eric have been doing business with me for 13 or 14 years, and theyve been a very good client, said Rising Sun Billboards president Grant Howse. When I found out Jer had been in the avalanche and needed assistance financially, we discussed it, and thought Why dont we make a big donation and see if we can get him a lot more money?

If youre going to be part of a community, you need to support people in need, added Mr. Howse, who has also lent in-kind support to Invermeres Essentials store, where co-owner Todd Rickards is battling cancer for the second time in four years.

Manny, whos been friends with Syndicate owners Eric Lange and Jer Donald for years, jumped at the chance to get the billboard, which would retail for about $5,000 for a six-month advertisement.

Jer and I go way back; I befriended him a long time ago and went to his wedding, he said. Id seen him in the hospital the day before in Vancouver.

Buying the billboard was a means also of showing support to Courageous Hearts: it was just the fact that theres a new charity in the valley and we were excited to go to that, he said.

Initially having no idea what would go on the billboard, Manny discussed it with friends and his team for two weeks before coming up with the idea of thanking the sponsors.

You always try to thank them in every way possible, he said. If I could do something like this every year, I would; most of the sponsors that are on that board have stuck with me through thick and thin.

Mr. Lange said hes heard a lot of positive reaction about the billboard, and noted its great for Jer because he requires funds for his rehab, which is ongoing and going really well.

It was a pretty generous donation on the part of Rising Sun; I can attest the billboards are not cheap, so kudos to them and Manny for doing that, he added.

Featured prominently among the logos on the billboard is the non-profit group Right To Play, for which Manny has been an ambassador for more than a year.

I went to a bunch of Right to Play events that were based around ski racing before and after the Olympics, he said. Its been a year where Ive really gotten to know the founder of the charity and most of its board members.

Though disappointed with some of his races in the 2013-2014 ski season, Manny says some recent changes make next season look very promising.

It was a bit of a trying season for myself; not skiing my best at the Olympics was tough; I had a really tough time figuring out the course in Sochi, he said. It was a trying week, but all in all I feel like Im back in form, and really happy that we have a new coach, Burkhardt Schaeffer, who was our coach when I first made the Alpine Canada ski team. I work very well with him.

Mr. Schaeffer may bring the Alpine Canada team to Panorama Mountain Village for early and late season training, noted Mr. Osborne-Paradis.