June 22nd, 2024

Sport Council giving back through Indigenous backpack project

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 22, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Staff and students help bring in backpacks filled with sporting equipment for them to use, part of the Lethbridge Sports Councils Pathway to Participation project, on Tuesday at St. Francis Junior High

The Lethbridge Sport Council is providing over 150 sport-filled-backpacks to Indigenous children and youth in communities across Lethbridge this holiday season.

The Pathway to Participation for Indigenous Families is a project in support of making sure all children have access to sports, with backpacks providing new opportunities to participate in a variety of sports and active recreation activities.

“We had a grant in the Pathway to Participation for Indigenous Families, it is the same grant we have been using for a lot of our FNMI initiatives to get them involved in sports,” said Shawn Daye-Finley, program and event coordinator for the Council. “The Southern Alberta Summer Games were postponed and later cancelled, and we had backpacks that were ordered for those games to be given away to all the participants. We had stacks of backpacks and we took them and found sports equipment to put in and started delivering them to schools. I reached out through principals and counselors for the FNMI community, like Billy Woitte (FNMI Support Worker at St. Francis Junior High).”

St. Francis Junior High got its backpacks on Tuesday, receiving around 81 for students. “To be a school that has been selected to get these backpacks, it is highly needed. To the students that are going to be receiving these, it will give them an opportunity to be involved in sports,” said Woitte. “Shawn asked me what sports were played in the school and I told him everything from soccer, to badminton, to volleyball, to hockey, and so they got those donations into the backpacks.”

For many after school activities, fees can rack up quickly when purchasing equipment needed to play. Donations to students will help keep them in sport programs or open up opportunities for new skills.

“It gives them the feeling that they are like everyone else on the court with the right equipment. Good, clean, safe, and feeling like part of the team,” said Woitte. “This is a gift that will give all year.”

Seeing a good response from those who participated in the Sport Council’s callout for backpacks, the items included in the backpacks will help kids stay active and healthy. “The response was pretty great, so far it has been well received,” said Daye-Finley. “We put some swim passes in there and skate passes for families to go and visit the city amenities and use them especially over the holidays when things are dull. As long as people stay active, we feel like it will lead to happier, healthier lives.”

The project was made possible through the support of partners with grant funding from the Government of Alberta, sports equipment from the Calgary Flames Sports Bank, Recreation Excellence Lethbridge, the City of Lethbridge, and the 2020 Alberta Summer Games Society.

“We went to various sports stores and made some large purchases which we were lucky to get at good rates when I told them about the initiative,” said Daye-Finley. “I can’t say enough nice things about those people, they just really want to get the sports equipment back into the hands of kids so it can be used.”

Helping keep kids active and making sure nobody is excluded, with donations like this more kids can join in on the fun without warming the bench.

“It’s important to be open minded of all the different things that people are having troubles accessing,” said Woitte. “Another good one is transportation. Like bus passes and being able to get to and from places. To get kids to and from events, because that is also a barrier along with not having the equipment, fees for sports that they are going to be in, but also transportation. I would love to see that all come together.”

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Citi Zen

Rampant reverse racism. Why just for indigenous kids?