Sporting a smile that could light a room, a child anxiously joins peers in the game. And when laughter follows, it’s clear that fun prevails.
But sadly, not every child is afforded this opportunity—worsened by the rising costs of registration fees. Fortunately, there are programs like KidSport to extend a helping hand.
“The registration costs for most sports go up over 10 per cent per year,” says Bob Jackson, chair of KidSport Richmond, one of 42 community chapters around B.C.
There are countless reasons for the increases, but the fact is they are a reality causing more families to have to reach out for assistance.
Last year, KidSport Richmond provided grants to 289 athletes. To date in 2018, it has already provided 235 grants with nearly four months remaining in the year. Jackson anticipates it’s likely that 330 athletes will receive grants through December, an increase of 15 per cent over 2017.
Financially, the growth is even greater.
“In 2017 we allocated $97,340 in grants,” he said. “In 2018, we have already provided over $70,000 in grants, so by the end of the year will probably issue around $120,000 in grants (representing an increase of over 20 per cent).”
Recognizing that nearly one in three (30 per cent) of Canadian youth under the age of 18 cannot afford to play organized sport, and only seven per cent of Canadian children are meeting Canada’s guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity a day, Sport BC originally introduced the KidSport concept in 1993. It had modest success in its first year, issuing about $35,000 in grants. Since then, KidSport has expanded across the country with chapters in 11 provinces and territories and 180 community-based chapters. In 2016, KidSport issued $1.9 million in grants for 7,800 kids.
Sport gives kids a healthy start. But it’s also much more than that, with play being a platform for learning life skills and developing social and cognitive abilities, as well as gaining self-confidence by engaging in new experiences and environments.
2018 marks KidSport’s 25th year of getting kids off the sidelines and into the game. With charitable status as a registered Canadian amateur athletic association, it has issued more than $68 million in grants enabling 75,0000 kids to partake in sport.
The community of Richmond continues to rise to the occasion, its generosity nothing short of outstanding. Because of the efforts of selfless individuals and corporate partners, KidSport Richmond today can provide a child from a needy family with up to $500 per year for registration in a physical activity. The grant is the highest in the province. For two years, 2012 and 2013, the maximum grant per child was $150 per year.”
The picture wasn’t always so bright, however. As recently as the summer of 2013 “we went three months where we could not provide grants, for we did not have the financial resources,” explained Jackson.
He said the major support of the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel is the biggest reason for the success of KidSport Richmond over the last five years. In 2014 they offered to host a fund-raising banquet, which the hotel has extended to date. The hotel covers many of the expenses, including the meals and banquet room rentals, while staff volunteer their time.
“Over these last five years we have raised over $205,000 that is used for grants to children from financially-challenged families in Richmond,” Jackson said.
The initial Creating Community Champions banquet in March 2014 raised $30,000. Today, a table seating 10 people (including a host athlete) nets KidSport Richmond $2,000, with individual tickets available for $175.
Former BC Lion guard Bobby Singh, who grew up playing multiple sports in Richmond, has been instrumental in getting prominent local athletes to attend the banquet. He continues to serve as honourary chair.
“I think the local developers know that some of the key politicians such as Mayor (Malcolm) Brodie, MLA Linda Reid and MP Joe Peschisolido also support this fundraising event, so they are either encouraged or want to be good corporate citizens,” Jackson said.
To date in 2018 – 235 kids funded – total of $79,166