When Bill Chambers and his wife Bonnie co-founded the KidSport Burnaby chapter almost 15 years ago, he was the principal at Cameron Elementary.
So many students at the time wanted to play sports outside of school, but just couldn’t afford it, Chambers told the NOW. That prompted him to look for external funding options.
“If a teacher said at an interview, ‘It’d be great to get your kids involved with sports or something,’ and the parents said, ‘I couldn’t afford it,’ then we would be able to say, ‘Here, fill out this application and we’ll make it happen.’”
Chambers came across KidSport, a national non-profit organization established in 1993 to provide annual sport registration grants.
During 2001, around $700 was doled out in Burnaby. So far this year, more than $40,000 has gone to 254 athletes, according to Chambers.
He said he’s never had to deny an application but added some years were tight.
“Even house-league baseball, the league has to pay the city for the use of the fields,” he added. “It used to be $35 to $40 for a season of baseball. Now it’s $150 to $200.”
All too familiar with rising sports fees is local resident Shabin Mere, whose 13-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter are enrolled in wrestling and martial arts, respectively.
“You have to have wrestling shoes and the uniforms,” Mere said. “Between the two, it’s $1,600 per year.”
Mere, whose family lives off one income at the moment, was referred to KidSport by a community liaison a couple of years ago. She applied for a grant and was successful.
“I found it very helpful. Every bit counts,” she noted.
Chambers, meanwhile, reiterated similar sentiments.
“There are parents who will put all their money into a kids’ program, and then they’ll eat Kraft dinner for three weeks. Our rationale is even if they get the extra $200, that’s $200 that goes back into the family budget,” he said.
For Mere, having her children experience the season of sport is beneficial in many ways. Not only does it improve physical health, provide social skills and develop leadership abilities, it’s fulfilling for parents, she explained.
“You’re there watching your kids progress in a sport, and you’re there to encourage them, and you’re there to support them. It’s important. If you can’t afford it, then it’s really heartbreaking.”
While the local chapter’s financial pie is significantly bigger compared to 2001, Chambers said the group is constantly fundraising.
“Every year, we start the year off looking at what we’ve got in the bank, what our prospects are, and that’s how we determine how much the applications are going to be,” he said. “We’re just hoping that we’re not letting kids slip through the cracks.”
The city, meanwhile, has proclaimed Sept. 6 to 13 as KidSport Week.
For more on KidSport Burnaby, to give a donation, or to apply for a 2015 KidSport grant, visit www.kidsport.ca/british-columbia/burnaby.
Grants of up to $200 are available to children between five and 18 who face financial barriers that may prevent them from participating in a season of organized sports.