Jumpstart helping Canadian kids play sports

From left, Arna McElrevy, program co-ordinator Jane Aitken, and Bunnie Coté are all part of Canadian Tire
From left, Arna McElrevy, program co-ordinator Jane Aitken, and Bunnie Coté are all part of Canadian Tire's JumpStart program for kids.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Luke Wilson knew she wanted her kids to be good swimmers.

Needed them to be good swimmers.

Every time one of her girls went near the water she cringed, recalling the sad story of uncle Dwight.

He couldn’t swim.

“He was eight years old and they lived back in Saskatchewan at the time,” Wilson recalled. “There was an abandoned farmhouse with a pond, and the kids used to go there even though they were told not to. They were out on a raft and he fell in. One girl tried to save him, but it was muddy water. They didn’t find him until it was too late.”

The same fate almost befell her father as well. Fred Wilson nearly drowned when he fell into a rushing river in Calgary.

He was lucky to escape with his life, and forever after eyed any body of water cautiously.

“Growing up, it was a thing with my parents,” Wilson said. “They wanted us to be able to swim well, so the same thing wouldn’t happen to us.”

Knowing all this, Wilson was pleased to find out her daughter Courtnay’s school was offering her swim lessons.

But there was a price.

Parents were expected to pony up to get their kids in the pool, and Wilson was flat broke.

Struggling to keep her head above water while going through a difficult separation from her husband, she simply couldn’t pay.

The single parent worried her daughter would have to do without.

Until she heard about Jumpstart.

In 2005, Canadian Tire launched a program to help families with financial barriers keep their kids in sports.

A registered charity, Jumpstart was using donations to help cover registration, equipment and/or transportation costs.

Wilson had a lifeline.

Already aligned with the school, Jumpstart covered six weeks of swimming classes. Courtnay learned an essential life skill and her mom breathed a huge sigh of relief.”

In a twist of fate, Wilson ended up taking a job with Canadian Tire, where she was more than happy to get involved with Jumpstart as a volunteer.

“This will be my third year volunteering, and my one daughter (Courtnay) volunteers as well,” she said proudly. “She’s 16 years old now and she loves it. Anything  you can do to help kids.”

Saturday is Jumpstart day, and the Chilliwack Canadian Tire is hoping for good weather and a big turnout for an outdoor festival.

Chilliwack Chief forward Josh Hansen is dropping by.

A barbecue will be running and a kids fun zone will be set up.

“All of our stores (more than 310 of them) will be doing something, and ours is a street fair,” said Chilliwack Canadian Tire promotions coordinator Jane Aitken. “We’ve got community policing and the fire department coming out. This whole month is about promoting the program, culminating with this fundraising day.”

Since 2005, Jumpstart has given 439,383 kids ages 4-18  across Canada the chance to play.

Last year, the local program helped 330 kids with sports registration or equipment costs.

Since 2005, the local program has helped 1,466.

“According to statistics, one in three families can’t afford to put their kids in organized sports,” Aitken noted. “More and more, people are recognizing the program and what it does.”

To get more info on what the program is and what it does, click online to

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