Photo by Don Fennell
KidSport Richmond was at a crossroads.
It was the summer of 2013 and Bob Jackson, chair of the charity’s local chapter, was explaining to colleagues during a meeting of Richmond Sports Council the challenging plight. The KidSport Richmond committee had just approved several applications but was forced to wait for grants to distribute the funds.
That’s when an unexpected Good Samaritan stepped forward.
Sanjeet Sadana was at the sports council meeting as a member of the Richmond Cricket Club, but in his capacity as director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel saw a way the hotel could extend a helping hand.
Gary Collinge, general manager of the Richmond hotel, was equally enthusiastic.
“We wanted to get behind one good charity so we could make a difference,” said Collinge of the Hilton’s offer to host a fundraising banquet.
But the depth and generosity of the hotel’s support for what became the Creating Community Champions Gala has been overwhelming.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without their support. We’re so grateful,” said Jackson.
On Friday, March 1, KidSport Richmond will host the already sold-out sixth annual Creating Community Champions Gala fundraising dinner. This follows Collinge’s commitment during the 2018 banquet that the hotel would continue to support this event.
“It’s fun for us, and it’s something the staff looks forward to with great anticipation every year,” said Collinge.
The fact the Hilton covers the costs for the evening further illustrates its affinity for the cause.
“In most events there are costs that soak up a lot of money,” said Jackson. “If we charged $200 a ticket, nearly $100 would probably have to go to cover the cost of the meal and rental of the room. This allows us to put every dollar back into the community.”
All three men have a deep appreciation for the intrinsic values of sport, and what the opportunity to participate has meant for their own children.
“It kept both my kids out of trouble because they had something to do. And they learned about teamwork,” said Collinge, whose son and daughter have taken those lessons and successfully applied them as adults.
What’s more, Collinge says his son still retains many of the close friendships established on his high school volleyball team.
A Richmond resident, Sadana currently has a son and daughter involved in sports locally and knows how much joy they get from participating.
Unfortunately, there are families struggle to make ends meet. And the cost of registering their children for a community or high school sport is simply prohibitive. But thanks to the vision of community leaders like Collinge and Sadana, and the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel, that’s a burden they no longer have to bear.
Deflecting his own contributions, Sadana marvels at the efforts of the many individuals who daily give back to sport. With KidSport Richmond, that’s the likes of chairperson Jackson and volunteers such as banquet chair Steve Valenzuela, Alexa Loo and Annie Watson whose tireless work behind the scenes often goes unnoticed.
Further, there are individuals like Bobby Singh, a Richmond-raised athlete who went on to enjoy great success in pro football and who is largely responsible for encouraging other athletes—past and present—to donate their time to Creating Community Champions Gala.
“They put in so much work and deserve to be recognized,” Sadana stressed.
Prior to the Creating Community Champions Gala, KidSport Richmond was forced to operate on a shoestring budget. Due to the very limited amount of available funds, in the past, the not-for-profit charity had decreased its maximum allocation to $150 from $200 per child. Today, thanks to the growing generosity of the community, KidSport Richmond is able to give out up to $500 per child per year—the highest figure in the province.
The inaugural Creating Community Champions Gala generated $25,518 in 2014, and funds have increased every year since reaching $49,968 in 2018.
Since launching in 2008, KidSport Richmond has provided more than 2,300 grants totalling more than a quarter million dollars. More importantly, it has ensured thousands of Richmond kids have had the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of participating in sport.
There can be no greater gift.
In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.”