Sports give kids a chance to have fun, develop skills, build confidence and interact with their peers. However, for many lower income families in the area, the costs of joining sports teams and leagues can be prohibitive. Fortunately, there is the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program which helps youngsters get in the game by helping with costs.
“Canadian Tire Jumpstart helps support financially disadvantaged kids into sport and recreation activities,” said Glenn McLean, western regional manager for Canadian Tire Jumpstart. “We cover registration costs, equipment costs, and/or transportation costs. We look at what are the main financial barriers for kids participating in sports and those are the three that are most prevalent and ones that we cover to help the parents get their kids into an activity.”
In 2010, the program helped 114 youngsters and allocated $10,850 for an average of $95.18 per child in Castlegar and the area. Jumpstart helped 98,000 kids in total throughout Canada.The Jumpstart program started in 2005 with a pilot project across Canada. Twenty five local children were helped the initial year and the program has grown ever since.
McLean said there are two different ways that families can become involved with Jumpstart.
“Organizations that are on the chapter, Bev (George) is one, may know the families of the kids that need the support,” said McLean. “She’ll either work with a program that engages those kids. Or she can talk to the families and make them aware so they can get their kids into an activity. Or a family could apply. They can apply through the store or call our toll free number 1-877-616-6600.”
Children are eligible to receive up to $300 towards one activity per period. There are two submission periods in each year: spring/summer and winter/fall.
The money for the Jumpstart program comes from several different sources. “Our charity raises money nationally through grants from the government,” said McLean. “We also have a golf tournament every year that is run with our vendors, and that raised just over $1 million.”
Canadian Tire also hosts events throughout the year such as the annual Jumpstart Day. Last year, Jumpstart Day, which was May 28 this year, raised over $3 million for the program.
“Any money raised locally, stays locally. One hundred per cent of the money goes to the local chapter budget to help local kids,” said McLean.
McLean was in Castlegar for the local chapter meeting where he met with several of the organizers.
“We talked about the budget and the number of kids we can support locally,” he said. “We also talked about a number of community development programs we’ll be running such as the 360 after-school program at Twin Rivers. We really set ourselves up well for next year.”
The sports the Castlegar Jumpstart chapter will help children play include: hockey, martial arts, equestrian, swimming, soccer, and baseball.
“We help with pretty much every activity that goes on – as long as it is an organized activity with a minimum of six weeks participation time, a child could be funded,” said Kerry Saari, champion of the Jumpstart program.
There are many advantages for children who are active. “Obviously, there is skill development and social development,” said McLean. “Studies show that if they are healthy at a young age they will carry that on as they grow. Kids involved in extracurricular activities will often do better in school. They’ll be less likely to get into trouble.”
Saari agrees with McLean. “When you get out there and learn a healthy lifestyle, you carry that into your adulthood,” she said. “Right now, when we are so concerned with our healthcare dollars and our hospitals, having a healthy lifestyle is a very big thing. I think athletic activity is a big part of health.”