Ahead of Thursday’s International Day of the Girl, some of the country’s top athletes made their way to The Bow building to inspire the gathering that included young girls and stress the importance of an active lifestyle.

The fundraising breakfast was hosted by ‘Fast and Female’, an initiative founded by gold medallist cross-country skier Chandra Crawford, and organizers say proceeds from the event will help reach an additional 1,000 girls.

The girls had an opportunity to ask questions of the panel of Olympians that included hockey player turned broadcaster Cassie Campbell-Pascall, wrestlers Erica Wiebe and Carol Huynh, and Crawford.

“Fast and Female’ encourages girls to remain active in sports throughout their teenage years

“We are not just paving the way,” explained Wiebe, who won gold in the 75 kg women’s wrestling freestyle at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. “We are following in the footsteps of the women before us and we’re also creating a whole new generation.”

“There’s so many new challenges as well and that’s why the work of Fast and Female is more important than ever in today’s climate.”

Ella Purdie and Anni Heinikinen, both 13 years old, have been involved with Fast and Female for five years. They say there are a number of reasons that girls quit sports at an earlier age than boys. “From (the age of) eight to 18, their confidence goes down more than guys do from the different things in their lives that are happening.” Purdie, a soccer player, and Heinikinen, a figure skater, said it was amazing to hear the experiences of the Olympic athletes

Crawford was inspired to start Fast and Female after learning that girls quit sports at nearly six times the rate of boys. The initiative started 13 years ago and Crawford says its message of physical activity has been delivered to more than 12,000 young women.

“This stuff works,” said Crawford. “It’s very valuable. I know there’s a lot on parents and a lot of demands on the young women as well. They’re balancing everything. They’re doing their best.”

“Sport and the chance to fail and get back up stronger, that is the ultimate life skill.”

With files from CTV’s Kevin Fleming