The Active Champions Series is a monthly showcase of inspiring stories from influential people living in Canada who make physical activity and sport a key part of their everyday lives.
Many people face barriers to sport participation, whether it’s costs, lack of time or societal pressures. Growing up, Olivia Ho didn’t let these hurdles stop her from enjoying sports and their benefits.
“I was an active kid who loved playing sports, but sports weren’t prioritized in my household, so I had to take control of my own physical activity journey and joined as many sport teams as I could,” Olivia told ParticipACTION.
Throughout her youth, Olivia played basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball, and did track-and-field, and sports continue to be a major part of her life.
“Playing sports is so much fun and an escape from reality because life can get heavy. The magic it does for your physical health is as important as the wonders it does for your mental health.”
Since 2017, Olivia has been working as a sport program lead at MLSE LaunchPad – a facility that empowers youth through sport. She runs free multisport programs for girls, as well as teaching how to apply skills learned from sports to daily life.
“It’s not about measuring how many points they score, because what’s most inspiring is experiencing the confidence and leadership skills they’ve built. Sadly, there’s a high sport dropout rate among young girls. That’s why it’s so important for them to have female mentors who will help them continue to stay active.”
Olivia also worked as a full-time cardiac sonographer at a Toronto hospital throughout most of the pandemic. To keep busy between shifts, Olivia started making planters out of basketballs at home. After posting photos of her planters on Instagram her inbox flooded with requests to make more.
What started as a pandemic hobby quickly grew into a successful business called The Give and Grow, a women-led initiative centred around personal growth. Proceeds from the planters support youth programming across Canada and workshops for young women in Toronto that provide mentorship and creative expression opportunities in a safe space.
“During these workshops, we talk a lot about the metaphor between plant growth and personal growth – things like how we’ve changed throughout the pandemic and staying true to our roots.”
Olivia’s business caught the attention of a Toronto Raptors staffer, who thought the planters would make great housewarming gifts for the team. The Raptors sent Olivia some basketballs to turn into planters and asked her to customize them for all the players and coaches. They even filmed a video about The Give and Grow, later sharing it with their millions of followers.
“As a huge Raptors fan, I was ecstatic about the team reaching out. After that surreal moment, I started to think of The Give and Grow as something I could do to not only pay the bills but also pursue my passions for sports, houseplants and working with youth.”
Olivia now works full-time at The Give and Grow while continuing her role at MLSE LaunchPad. Despite having such a busy life, Olivia still makes time for physical activity.
“I especially enjoy virtual exercise classes because sometimes half the battle is leaving your home to go to the gym or a workout class. I also try joining in with the girls I coach at MLSE LaunchPad whenever I can.”
Here’s Olivia’s advice for those struggling to find time to squeeze in physical activity:
“You don’t need to join a league or overcommit yourself. Simple ways to stay active, like walking or biking instead of driving or taking transit go a long way. If you focus on small changes to your everyday life, you’ll form a different view of what it means to be active.”
Know an Active Champion you’d like to see profiled? Email us at email@example.com.