Greater Victoria kids get a Jumpstart on team sports
When Cathy Campbell's two sons were gearing up for summer camps in their younger years, Campbell knew she had a place to turn for help with the added expenses.
The Brentwood Bay mom speaks frankly about how Canadian Tire's Jumpstart program helped her boys grow into amazing young men.
“The JumpStart program helped me, like a village, raise my boys," Campbell says, reflecting on the many summer camps, leadership courses, kayaking trips and other outings taken by her boys Zack Van Den Bussche, now 20, and younger brother Colton, now 16.
Locally, Jumpstart provides $80,000 annually to thousands of kids across Greater Victoria. More than 9,300 kids have been helped since 2011. Across the country, 332 Jumpstart boards help 2,500 organizations discreetly identify youth who need a financial boost to cover sports expenses such as registration, equipment and transportation costs.
"That's the beauty of this model: we're reaching the right kids with appropriate funding – like a pair of basketball shoes or a bus pass – that allows them to participate with dignity," says Rhonda Brown, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Victoria and chair of the Victoria chapter of the Jumpstart program.
While the majority of local Jumpstart kids are in middle school, the program accepts applications from families with children as young as four.
"Our goal is to really have the funding support as many kids as we can," she said.
"It's the difference between participating and not participating – there's no halfway for many of these families."
Grants are allocated twice a year to a maximum of $300 per child with a focus on recreational sports. The concept is that recreational activities such as soccer, swimming or dance help kids gain life-long health benefits, confidence and social skills that come from being active at an early age.
Staff at the eight Greater Victoria rec centres also help identify kids in need and use a community pot of Jumpstart funding when they need it, Brown says.
"Families move in and out of hardship as well, so having people who know their community is so much more effective to getting that funding where it needs to go," she says.
In the Van Den Bussche boys’ case, the Greater Victoria Boys and Girls Club served as a home base
“They helped me raise great kids,” Campbell said. “Being able to go and hang out with their friends, and do things I was not really able to afford for them to do, by myself.”
Colton even serves on the National Youth Council of Canada for the Boys and Girls Club.
“Without the funding through the Jumpstart program they probably would have had to leave the club,” Campbell said. “They’ve taken so much from it, so many life skills.”
National Jumpstart Day happens May 31 across Canada. The main Greater Victoria celebration takes place at the View Royal Canadian Tire, 1519 Admirals Rd. all day Saturday.
To find a local JumpStart chapter, contact 1-877-616-6600.