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Jumpstart gets Abbotsford kids in the game
When Andrew Taekema sets about explaining the impact that the Canadian Tire Jumpstart charity has had on his family, it doesn't take long before he starts to get emotional.
"Without programs like this, families like ours fall through the cracks," Taekema said. "It could be the difference between the CFL and a set of prison bars."
Four years ago, a workplace accident left Taekema with gastrointestinal and neurological disorders, abruptly ending his 15-year career in the construction industry.
On a limited income, putting his kids into extracurricular activities wasn't a possibility.
But for the past two years, Jumpstart has helped to subsidize the registration fees for Taekema's three boys to join the Abbotsford Falcons community football program. Since its inception in 2005, the charity has given hundreds of thousands of kids across Canada a chance to get involved in sports by covering registration, equipment and/or transportation costs.
Taekema has seen his boys win league championships and make it all the way to the B.C. final, and even more importantly, he's watched them grow as young men. He said it's "extremely important" for them to be involved in sports.
"It teaches them about team play, it teaches them how to win, and it teaches them how to lose," he said.
"When you have a hard time being able to put food on the table, extracurricular activities for your kids are usually out of the question. Having JumpStart there to take care of most of the cost is a godsend. It means more to us to get our kids into things they enjoy doing than anything else in the world."
Pierre Welbedagt, executive director of the West Abbotsford Community School Society (WACSS), is the volunteer co-ordinator for Jumpstart in Abbotsford. WACSS, along with the Abbotsford Youth Commission and the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, administer funds from Jumpstart.
Welbedagt said that in the past year, 60 kids have accessed Jumpstart funds through WACSS. Another 65 kids participate in a Jumpstart academy, an after-school sports program now in its second year.
"You just name a sport, and that's where the dollars go," he said, noting that Jumpstart has helped kids get involved in soccer, hockey, dance, gymnastics, baseball and swimming, among others.
"Kids are developing self-confidence and leadership skills . . . and they're learning to socialize with their peers."
While Jumpstart has impacted Taekema's kids, it's also inspired him to get involved. He serves as the Falcons' equipment manager, and coaches the offensive line with the Grade 8 team at Howe Middle School.
"There's a lot of takers out there," he said, "but we also have to be givers at the same time."
To apply for Jumpstart funding through WACSS, visit www.westabby.org or call Welbedagt at 604-859-6919.
For more information on the program or to donate, visit jumpstart.canadiantire.ca.