KidSport turning to bottle drive to earn much-needed funds after COVID cancelled May events

Dwight Bergstrom spent the day looking out over Central Ave. and Memorial Square as part of a KidSport Prince Albert fundraiser on Thursday, May 4, 2017. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

If you have a pile of empties at your home or your cabin and you’re hesitant to stand in line at SARCAN, Dwight Bergstrom of Kidsport Prince Albert would like a word with you.

The organization had its slate of usual fundraisers cancelled because of COVID-19. KidSport month is usually held in May. The events themselves too aren’t the most pandemic-friendly. Public health guidelines make things like steak nights and bowling events harder to pull off.

KidSport Prince Albert had to get creative.

“We’ve never done a bottle or can collection and the (Saskatoon chapter) did one and it was worth the trouble,” Bergstrom said.

“Everybody thinks it’s good timing. People have been pooling them up all summer.”

Bergstrom was at SARCAN Tuesday arranging the fundraiser. He said he saw the long lineup. For some, that wait isn’t worth the refund.

“A lot of people would rather give them to a good cause than have to go through that. We’re hoping we’re a good enough cause that we catch people’s attention and get our share of what’s sitting in backyards and garages.”

KidSport is a national not-for-profit organization that provides financial assistance for registration fees and equipment to kids aged 18 and under. All the money donated locally stays local. And while COVID-19 cancelled some sports seasons, fall and winter activities appear to be going ahead. The local chapter needs to raise some funds to help those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford to play sports this year.

“Fall is our biggest season,” Bergstrom said.

“The fundraising we normally do in May we guild up for the fall and winter. We’ve got to get some work done here as best we can given COVID circumstances. We thought we would use the can and bottle collection to replace the (steak night) dollars there.”

The bottle collection isn’t the only fundraiser the organization has planned. As in past years, Bergstrom will be taking pledges. If the pledges hit at least $4,000, he will spend the night in a scissor lift.

An online link will be available later this year to donate remotely to the cause.

For Bergstrom, funding kids’ desires to play sports is vital.

It can help mental and physical help while teaching life skills. It’s a something he’s seen first-hand.

Bergstrom helps run the Kistahpinanihk Paddling Club, based out of Prince Albert, which works with youth in partnership with the Prince Albert Grand Council and KidSport each summer.

Kids are taken up to lakes where they are taught paddling techniques and given a fun, active summer activity.

“Many of those kids have never been to a lake and never got a chance to do anything,” he said.

“We’re teaching them some skills, stuff on the sport and having fun.”

Additionally, kids learn leadership skills, and if they demonstrate they’re willing to go the extra mile in helping pack up and unload equipment or help with canoes and kayaks, Bergstrom has offered to serve as a reference for job opportunities.

“I remember the kids that were real rock star kids,” he said.

“I’ve had that happen in all the sports I’ve been involved with. It’s  sport and recreation and fun, but you try to throw in a bunch of life silks where you can.”

Sports also provides an outlet for kids who, faced with nothing to do and nowhere to belong, can become at risk of falling into poor lifestyle choices. Providing programming, including sports, is one way to reach at-risk kids.

It also makes a huge difference to families.

“I have gone to the schools and we’ve had sign-up days where I help take the applications with parents,” Bergstrom said.

“The kids are there and the looks on their faces, it’s like writing a letter to Santa Claus and hoping to get something for Christmas. It’s very cool to see this impacting the kids. For so many, they don’t get a chance to do this unless something like this comes along.”

While KidSport can give up to $500 per kid, most grants average out to about $200. Still, the Prince Albert chapter often finds that there isn’t enough funding to go around.

“”Every time we raise $200, that’s another kid we can put into sports. It’s all valuable and we, at all times have applications come in and we can’t fund them. It’s a heartbreaker when that happens.”

The bottle drive is set to run on Sept. 8 and 9 from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Bottles and cans can be dropped off at TJ’s Pizza at 99 15th Street East.

The scissor lift fundraiser is set for Sept. 24.