Keeping kids in the game

Lakeland Ford managing partner Scott Newsom speaks at the launch of the Play it Forward equipment bank project Thursday. Collection day is Saturday, October 14. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

KidSport, S.H.A.R.E and other agencies launching equipment bank program

Growing up, Dane Sanderson loved to play sports.

He played several different sports, but volleyball is where he really succeeded, playing on Team Sask. in the summer, eventually playing one year of competitive volleyball at the University of Regina.

While sports were an important part of his life, it wasn’t always easy for his family to afford the registration fees associated with the activities he loved.

That’s where KidSport came in.

“When times were a little tougher we got KidSport to help us. That allowed me to play on Team Sask. throughout the summers,” Sanderson, who is now the marketing manager at Lakeland Ford and Lakeland Hyundai, said.

“I know personally, it was awesome help, knowing that I would be able to play sport. It gives you that sense of pride that you’re still able to play.”
Sanderson and Lakeland Ford played host to Kidsport, S.H.A.R.E., Dream Brokers, Gene’s Cycle and Sports and representatives from the City of Prince Albert Thursday to announce the launch of a new program aimed at providing sports equipment to families who cannot afford it.

The program, called Play it Forward, is a partnership between KidSport, S.H.A.R.E, Dream Brokers, Lakeland Ford, Lakeland Hyundai, Gene’s and the city.

Dwight Bergstom has been the chair of the local KidSport chapter for about a year and a half. For Bergstrom, the need for a program like Play it Forward quickly became clear.

“The big need for kids was support with registration fees. But the other barrier our community recognized very quickly was the cost of equipment.”

“I knew KidSport didn’t have the resources, but I knew S.H.A.R.E. did.”

Bergstrom met with S.H.A.R.E. and the representatives with Lakeland Ford. They then looked at what worked in other communities, finding the Comries Equipment Bank in Calgary and wanted to replicate it.

Some of the equipment donated to Play it Forward Prince Albert came from Comries Equipment Bank in Calgary, Alta. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

They got in touch with the program in Calgary, and got some ideas about how they could launch their own program. They also donated a bunch of spare hockey equipment to get the P.A. equipment bank going.

Play it Forward will be hoping to add to their collection Saturday. They are holding a collection day, with Gene’s Cycle and Sports, Source for Sports and Lakeland Ford collecting lightly used equipment for use in the local equipment bank. They’re hoping the event will give them a good head start to meet the needs of less fortunate families in the area.

“We’ve very excited about our first big day,” Bergstrom said. “We’re asking everybody in the city to try to get involved. Get into the garage, or the basement, or the closet, dig out whatever you’ve got and bring it to donate it.”

Anything that’s useful for kids in need will be distributed to those families. Any excess equipment will be sold, with the proceeds going to buy more equipment needed by the less fortunate in the area.

According to organizers, Value Village is also getting involved, donating what sports equipment they have.

Open trailers will be at each of those three businesses during regular hours Saturday for collection. The equipment will be warehoused at S.H.A.R.E., which will also help distribute needed equipment and sell anything extra.

If people aren’t able to make it to the equipment drive Saturday, they’ll be able to donate throughout the year. Lakeland Ford and S.H.A.R.E. have agreed to be collection points throughout the year. The city is also working on putting out collection boxes in the Dave Steuart and Kinsmen Arenas as well as the Alfred Jenkins Field House.

The need is great. KidSport supported 412 kids in 2016, most receiving about $250 to help with registration.

But that doesn’t cover equipment. And for families with children in hockey or lacrosse, those costs can skyrocket. A new set of hockey equipment can cost $300 on the extreme low end, and as much as over $1,000.

Even equipment for soccer or baseball – things like cleats, helmets, shin guards, gloves and other equipment, can get into the hundreds of dollars.

Those who work closely with families see the difference being able to play a sport or participate in the arts can have on children.

“It means the world to them,” said Neru Franc, who works with the Dream Brokers organization. Dream Brokers works to remove barriers for students, whether they be registration, the cost of equipment or supplies, or transportation, who want to participate in sports or arts and culture activities, but can’t.

“I have amazing kids who have never played soccer, who weren’t able to go into dance or an art program, and they are ecstatic,” Franc continued.

“For us to be able to fund 100 per cent of their costs in sport, recreation and culture, it takes the stress off. It builds confidence. You actually see a whole different child and family because of the opportunities they’re able to access.

Having something like an equipment bank means the money raised by these organizations can be focused on funding registration fees alone, which are often less expensive than the equipment itself.

For those like Sanderson who know what it’s like to need a little help, being in a position now to provide that assistance is fantastic.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity,” Sanderson said. “Now that I’m in a position where I’m able to give back, Kidsport was definitely one of the organizations I wanted to give back to. Play it Forward allows them to get that equipment they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It’s that extra help that will definitely allow kids to play more sports, and it will help their families out.”