The Maine Winter Sports Center announced Monday it is launching a $20 million endowment campaign with a $2 million gift from a Presque Isle native.

The donor, Mary Barton Smith, also pledged an additional $3 million toward the endowment if matching funds are raised in the next two years.

Andy Shepard, CEO and president of the Maine Winter Sports Center, said Smith’s donation provides new life for the nonprofit in its mission to bring outdoor programs to communities across the state.

“It’s transformative,” Shepard said. “This $20 million endowment campaign is all about securing the long-term sustainability of the center. To be able to come out of the gate with a gift that amounts to $8 million – what this does is show people across Maine this campaign will be successful, and as a result, is worth investing in.”

The center provides free or inexpensive Nordic skiing trails, training and equipment in 140 communities from Elliot to Fort Kent.

In addition, the center’s competition and training sites in Fort Kent and Presque Isle prepared six athletes for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and has trained 15 Olympians.


“Mary’s interest in the Maine Winter Sports Center is more an interest in giving Mainers the opportunity to live healthy, active, outdoor lifestyles,” Shepard said. “She told me she was inspired by the Maine Winter Sports Center model, and wants to see it continue.”

In February 2014, the center announced it would lose its funding from the Libra Foundation and needed to raise $1.4 million within three months to continue operating in the following fiscal year. Smith stepped in to help, donating $500,000, and the center was able to meet its goal.

Smith, who now lives in California, also gave a $5 million gift in 2012 to build a health and wellness center and student center at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle.

Smith’s gift to the school provided the lion’s share of the $6 million needed to build the Rodney Smith Center for Fitness and Occupational Wellness, named in honor of Smith’s late husband, and the Akeley Student Center, named in honor of her parents.

“It helped provide tremendous access for student and community members for a health and wellness facility, not only to exercise but to get information on nutrition and better health,” said Tim Crowley, president of the Northern Maine Community College.

“We have one of the oldest work forces in the country in Aroostook County. We know people have to work longer. The health and wellness becomes even more important. (Smith) is just a generous person who wants to do something to help people.”

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