Two local organizations that provide financial assistance to children so they can participate in organized sports and other activities are seeing dramatic increases in their numbers of applicants.
The culprit is the recession Alberta has suffered through as world oil plummeted to rock bottom prices and many people directly or indirectly have lost their jobs or faced reduced work hours.
In the first quarter of this year, Jumpstart helped 464 children in its Red Deer chapter, almost five times the number when compared with 94 in the same quarter last year. In the same comparative time period, a total of $34,218 was disbursed in 2016 and $17,927 last year.
KidSport, which helped a total of 192 local children in all of 2015, has provided money to over 50 children so far this year, a pace that represents about a three-fold increase in applications. Registration for spring sports activities hasn’t even started yet, said Ashley Ferguson, chair of the Red Deer chapter.
Rob Hatch, chairman of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities chapters in Cochrane and Calgary, and Alberta spokesman, said demand is up right across Alberta. He is seeing “demand like never before.”
Jumpstart provides funds through a number of community partners to help a child with costs of registration, equipment and even transportation, to a maximum of $600 per year.
Hatch said they are seeing more families that typically wouldn’t have accessed a program likes Jumpstart in the past. “Without question it is a growing need out there.”
Families can access the program through Jumpstart community partners, which include Red Deer Youth and Volunteer Centre foundations, City of Red Deer Recreation Parks and Culture, Fox Run School and Central Alberta Refugee Effort.
“There’s help out there and it can be very discreet and our community partners are incredible at maintaining and developing these relationships with the families,” Hatch said.
He said that funding for Jumpstart is stable and includes, among other sources, regular funding from Canadian Tire stores and public donations.
Given the KidSport numbers so far this year, Ferguson said her organization became quite concerned, so at their last board meeting it was decided to reduce the annual amount of funding per child from $250 to $200.
“We are on pace to set a phenomenal record for Red Deer.”
She said that as soon as they feel comfortable that they will have sufficient resources, they hope to boost the amount of individual assistance back up to $250.
Their funding comes from donations from local organizations or businesses, partnerships, and fundraisers. The local Kinsmen are providing $30,000 over three years to KidSport.
“Sports are more than just play. They help our children grow and develop and they teach social skills and life skills and how to be responsible and work together — all those kinds of things that they’re going to need in their adult lives and the workforce. It’s just so important,” Ferguson said.
More information on the two groups is available online at kidsportcanada.ca and jumpstart.canadiantire.ca