The Province is highlighting several commitments to programs that make sporting activities more affordable for families and empower under-represented children and youth to jump back into sport and physical activities, regardless of family finances.
This comes as the Province marks KidSport BC Powered by Sport BC Week.
“We know how important it is for children and youth to participate in sport and physical activities,” said Melanie Mark, Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport. “Sport is the great equalizer. It has the power to heal, to promote good health and to lead children and youth to brighter futures. No child should be benched because of their family’s finances. That’s why we are investing in several programs, to take the financial barriers out of the game. Our government is committed to move the dial so all children and youth can thrive, dream big and shine in all aspects of their lives.”
Cost keeps one in three kids out of organized sport, especially those from marginalized or remote communities. Families who face financial hardships often struggle to pay for their children to participate in sport and physical activities. The COVID-19 pandemic added a layer of economic, social and health challenges.
Kids who are active through sport are physically and mentally healthier, more connected to their community and develop important life skills, such as teamwork and leadership. In honour of KidSport BC week, which runs Sept. 25 until Oct. 1, 2022, the Government of B.C. renews its commitment and support for children and youth around the province.
KidSport BC is an example of a measure that exists to provide direct financial support to families with low incomes. Through KidSport BC, children could be eligible for as much as $400 per child, per calendar year, to help pay for membership with eligible sport organizations.
The Province provides an annual contribution of $400,000 to KidSport. In 2019, it provided a one-time $2.5-million investment to expand the program over three years. As a result, $1.3 million was distributed to KidSport BC community chapters in 2021, supporting more than 4,100 kids in 132 communities. The remaining funds will be used this year.
“Sport helps kids find belonging, shapes character, fuels healthy habits, builds confidence and unleashes potential – benefits that are important for all kids, but especially those who face disadvantages growing up,” said Rob Newman, president and CEO, Sport BC. “By funding grants to help cover the cost of sport registration fees, KidSport BC and our 40 community chapters across the province, in partnership with our Sport BC members and their local clubs, are helping more kids get off the sidelines to experience the power of sport.”
Additionally, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport announced $3.6 million in May 2022 for the RISE (Resilient, Inspire, Strength, and Engage) fund, which is a grant program administered by the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (ISPARC). This fund provides as much as $1,000 to children and youth in and from government care to help pay for fees and expenses related to their participation in sport, physical and cultural activities. Eligible fees are associated with registration, equipment and travel for sport and activities, such as soccer, ice hockey, drop-in fitness, hiking or traditional Indigenous dance and canoe
“We are very proud to be working with the B.C. government to deliver the new RISE grant program, as we share the commitment to reducing barriers to participation and addressing the unique needs of children and youth in and from government care,” said Rick Brant, CEO, ISPARC. “Since launching the RISE program earlier this year, we have provided more than 100 grants to young individuals ranging from three to 24 years of age. Sport, physical activity, recreation and cultural programs are good medicine, and these grants will give recipients the opportunity to build a healthier future and to experience that transformational power.”
The ministry also provides $1.4 million to the After School Sport and Art Initiative (ASSAI). Through this free school-based initiative, children from kindergarten to Grade 8 can access quality activities, one-on-one support, healthy snacks and transportation to improve engagement, and get the full benefit of participating in after-school activities. In 2021-22, more than 9,800 children accessed the program, including those from under-represented groups.
“ASSAI has been integral to the creation of life-changing programs and opportunities for students in our school district”, said Stephanie Mills, Prince George Secondary Community school co-ordinator. “Engagement in meaningful activities through ASSAI programs has helped our students build confidence and self-esteem, while facilitating equity of access and interest in new and positive activities. Staff have reported that students who attend ASSAI activities come back to school more regulated and better able to effectively communicate their needs. ASSAI programming has helped us to create accessible programs while promoting a sense of belonging for everyone.”