This article was originally published on the CBC Sports website.
Canadian Monique Sullivan's helmet features design by young kidney transplant patient
With a steady hand and an unbreakable focus, 16-year-old Joel Jamieson traces his paint brush over the Canadian maple leaf.
The young artist's canvas is a cycling helmet.
Canadian cyclist Monique Sullivan will be wearing Jamieson's artwork when she competes at the Pan Am Games in Toronto this summer.
t's an achievement in itself that Jamieson is here, in his Northwest Calgary home, healthy enough to take on such a project. Just last year, he underwent a kidney transplant. Before that, he spent four hours a day on dialysis in a hospital.
"That was just torture, it was a tough life, kind of hard to think of yourself as normal," says Jamieson, who loves the outdoors and sports.
The transplant changed all that. "Everything is different; new life, new opportunities."
One of the opportunities came when Helmets for Heroes, a charitable program, connected him with Sullivan.
The Olympian and double gold Pan Am medallist jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Jamieson and wear his artwork at this year`s Pan Am Games. "It is really just special to me to bring that into racing and bring the community in," she said during a break from training at the velodrome at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton, Ont.
"It brings more meaning to the race for me, beyond what the results end up being."
'Incredible artistic talent'
Helmets for Heroes was started by Canadian Alpine skier Brad Spence in 2013. He was training to compete at the Sochi Olympics when he visited the Alberta Children's Hospital and met Gillian O'Blenes-Kaufman, who was battling osteosarcoma, a cancer that starts in the bone.
"I discovered Gillian's incredible artistic talent. Funny enough, everyone around Gillian saw this talent except for her," Spence told CBC News from Victoria.
Their friendship grew and Spence wanted a way to bring the ill teen with him to Sochi. He persuaded her to paint her impressive artwork on his helmet.
O'Blenes-Kaufman died at 18, just nine months after giving Spence the decorated helmet.
Helmets for Heroes lives on because of her, Spence says. "This is definitely her legacy that has spawned this whole thing, and I'm proud to wear that badge on my chest."
On the day of O'Blenes-Kaufman's funeral, Sam Edney slid his way into Canadian sports history wearing the second helmet made for Helmets for Heroes.
Edney is the first Canadian to win a men's World Cup race in luge.
He did it wearing a helmet designed and painted by Richard Flamenco, a teen suffering a rare, painful skin condition.
Edney said the power of the helmet made him feel "unstoppable." He brought Flamenco to the podium to share in his gold medal.
Sam Edney's Helmets for Heroes race to the top of the podium
Jamieson is hoping Sullivan will be similarly inspired during her Pan Am cycle races by the helmet he is painting.
He is working with Kelsey Fraser, a professional artist who has mentored the young artists in the Helmets for Heroes program. "Art can propel people to do great things," she says. "It will be neat to see Monique's experience and how she feels with the helmet."
Certainly it will be recognizable as Sullivan races in Toronto. The trio settled on a design with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop to represent strength and Sullivan's hometown, Calgary.
Front and centre on the helmet is a maple leaf with flames.
What won't be so easily seen are two so-called secret words hidden in the flames. But Sullivan is choosing to reveal them. "Love and joy, those are my two secret words. Joy just kind of brings me back to being a kid riding bikes. Everything comes down to love."
All Helmets for Heroes are auctioned off after competition. The proceeds are donated to the Alberta Children's Hospital, where the young artists have been treated.