Kidsport: Dedicated to funding an active future
KidSport Wood Buffalo (KSWB) marked a milestone in 2020 by joining the provincial organization (KidSport Alberta) in celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Local organizers are honouring the celebration with a commitment to continue supporting sports opportunities for children and youth in the Wood Buffalo region – no matter the barriers.
And while the world of sports has changed, organizers are relentless to its impact and plan to continue in achieving its success for the future of the region’s children and youth.
“Active play in sports is beneficial for children and youth because it improves their self-esteem and self-confidence,” said Executive Director of KidSport Wood Buffalo Jamal-E-Fatima Rafat. “We understand the challenges that have developed with the pandemic, but we are determined to continue raising funds for those who will need extra help.”
Turning back the calendar to 1995, the KidSport initiative first kicked off in Canada with a small group of volunteers who decided sports were too important for kids to miss out. Since then, thirty-seven chapters of volunteers and staff have invested over $25-million to help nearly 120,000 kids become players of their favourite sports.
In 2019, the local chapter funded 382 children and invested approximately $142,024 for them to play on sports teams, including ice hockey, football, basketball, soccer, taekwondo, gymnastics and many more.
One parent of three children shared her experience with the KidSport program, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and said it was a smooth process to get started.
“When I first heard about KidSport, I found it would help a lot with my kids. The ED (Executive Director) was patient enough to make it (the process) run smoothly and even spoke to whichever sports coordinator about the payments. My kids love basketball and swimming. And, sure enough, I found it was funded by KidSport,” she said.
The organization has also recognized the financial hit on the economy and the families living in the region. And because its mandate is to help support children financially in active sports, it plans to continue its role in the community with hopes for more normalcy to return.
“Sports is the most engaging way for children to get the physical activity they need to be healthy,” Rafat said. “Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID-19 has left more families in our community vulnerable and unable to afford to put their kids into organized sports. KSWB will step in to mitigate that loss.”
Rafat further explains the importance of organized sports and how it helps the betterment of children and youth’s mental and physical health.
“As sports slowly return to our community, it will play a crucial role in the mental and physical recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. Disruption of organized sports, along with the prolonged school closure from the start of the year, has caused thousands of children in our community to be isolated in their homes,” she said.
“Hundreds of parents have been forced to become homeschoolers with or without the necessary tools and skills. This has caused immense stress on families. With the return of contactless sports and organized sports in any form, families and children are eager to get back into the game.”
To relieve some of the home isolation, KidSport distributed 100 play kits to KidSport eligible families to help encourage physical activities at home.
The Dunn Family also shared how they were able to participate in sports activities like Balance Sports and the Fort McMurray Mantas Swim Club with thanks to KidSport.
“As a single-family income, we have tight finances at home and live under a budget. Thus, unfortunately, sometimes we can’t afford the fees to sign-up our children into sports activities in Fort McMurray. When I heard about KidSport, I didn’t hesitate to ask for their help,” they said. “As they got new management, things became easier and quicker.”
With sustainability still on the forefront, KidSport was able to hit new heights, and its new management increased community engagement by teaming up with new partners. Keyano Huskies, the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, Balanced Sports and Northern Elite Football are a few of the like-minded organizations that understand the KidSport vision.
KidSport Wood Buffalo Chair Brayden Kijewski shared how new and continued partnerships along with the tireless efforts from the organization’s new executive director helped make all the success possible.
“Jamal has been an unbelievable addition to KidSport and has worked tirelessly to promote sport for the youth of our region,” he shared. “We significantly increased our community engagement and established new partnerships, and we continued to strengthen long-standing partnerships.”
Moving forward, the sports community is gradually returning. The summer of 2020 started with a few camps opening. With fall bringing back more opportunities across the region, KidSport has been accepting funding applications for residents to register in ice hockey, basketball, dance, ringette and gymnastics with hopeful expectations to continue for the season.
To learn more about KidSport and to register or donate, visit kidsportcanada.ca or call 780-791-0077, Ext. 3029.
KidSportWB created play kits for families to enjoy activities at home during the pandemic. The kits were delivered throughout the region and as far as Fort Chipewyan.
In July 2020, the Wood Buffalo Community Foundation donated $10,000 to KidSport Wood Buffalo through its Emergency Community Support Fund to help with COVID-19 relief.
KidSportWB created play kits for families to enjoy activities at home during the pandemic. The kits were delivered throughout the region and as far as Fort Chipewyan. Supplied photos