My name is Ken Burk. I was a miner for 33 years, 28 of them at Barrick’s Hemlo operation in Marathon, Ontario. The gold used for the gold medals at the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto comes from Hemlo. I’m sure that’s exciting for all of the operation’s employees, but for me it’s extra special. Our daughter, Whitney Bogart, is participating at the Parapan Am Games. This gives a whole new meaning to bringing home the gold!
Whitney is one of five of our children. She has albinism, as do all five of our kids. Most people with albinism are legally blind, and that's also true of our children. As a child, Whitney really took to sport, which wasn’t surprising because she was never interested in sitting in the house doing nothing. She was into soccer, skating, bowling, swimming, camping, you name it. She was always pumped up and kept us entertained with her bubbly personality. When she was 14, she left home to attend a high school for the blind and visually impaired in Brantford, Ontario. That’s where she was introduced to goalball.
In 2002, Whitney went from playing high school goalball to the Ontario women’s team. Two years later, she was named Ontario Blind Sports Association’s athlete of the year. In 2005, she made the Canadian national goalball team, travelling the world with the team while continuing to play for the provincial team and attend college.
There have been many highs and a few lows over the years. In 2008, the Ontario goalball team won the Canadian championship, but that was also the year Whitney was left off the national team. I still remember the call: “Dad, I’ve been cut from the team. I won’t be going to the Paralympics in China.” Whitney was devastated, as were we. I understood then how parents of elite Canadian hockey players feel when their kids are cut from a national team.
But Whitney sucked it up and came back more determined than ever to get back on the team and participate in the London 2012 Paralympics. Her hard work paid off and she made the team in 2009 and every year since. We were able to go to London with Whitney’s brother Tyler, who is now married to Whitney’s fellow national team member, Amy (Kneebone) Burk. Whitney’s husband Jesse Bogart also joined us to cheer Canada on. What an amazing experience, watching your child march in with all the other Canadian athletes. It was hard to hold back the tears.
We’re all in Toronto to watch Whitney, Amy and the rest of the girls vie for gold. It would be a thrill if they could win gold mined at Hemlo, but that would be icing on the cake. We’re already thrilled seeing Whitney excel at something she loves. We couldn’t be any prouder. Go Canada!
Barrick is the exclusive supplier of gold, silver and copper for the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games. Visit the Hemlo mine in Ontario where Ken worked and meet some of the people who produced the gold for the athletes: