Olympians are asking for Canadians to lend a hand to help them reach the 22-inch-high gold podium, and an 11-year-old was the first in the country to help.

A national online campaign was launched Thursday at Canada Olympic Park to raise a target of $5 million in individual donations of $20.10. The funds will go to the Own the Podium program, which aims to hit the $110-million mark with government-matched funds.

Nikki Hohmann, a student at John Costello Catholic School, saved her own nickels and dimes to make the first online donation at the kickoff yesterday. “I think it’s important to help the athletes stand on the podium,” the skier and future Olympic hopeful said.

Ryan Blais, a member of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team training for the 2010 Olympics, said athletes face huge financial burdens during their training, and funding like this makes all the difference.