School children from Lac La Hache recently received an extra warm welcome to Victoria.
Twenty students, in grades 4 to 7, will have even more memories to take home with them following their educational field trip to the provincial capital on Wednesday, where they toured the Legislature and enjoyed other attractions.
Like many youth and school groups that travel to Victoria from around the province to learn about government, heritage and culture, their trip was largely paid for through the Provincial Capital Commission. It's Capital For Kids program is funded by revenue generated from several properties the commission owns in Greater Victoria.
"I think we may be the only one left to fund kids to travel like this," said Ray Parks, commission CEO.
After emerging from the Legislature, the surprised kids were treated to cake cut by Ida Chong, B.C.'s Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to recognize that 25,000 young people have travelled to Victoria since the program began five years ago. The event also recognizes the program's recent name change from the Youth Travel Subsidy Program.
"We think British Columbians in general should be aware and discover the capital because it speaks to how the province was formed," Parks said.
The commission has contributed more than $1 million in accommodation and travel expenses to allow school-age children, including Scouts, Girl Guides and 4-H participants, from 105 B.C. communities to travel to Victoria. From March to June, the commission paid out $244,000 so more than 7,600 kids from 166 groups could come here. Kids from Greater Victoria have also travelled to other parts of the province through the program, Parks said.
He said he has seen demand for travel funding go up about 30 per cent a year, prompting the commission to seek corporate funding partners. He hopes to finalize a deal sometime this year that would allow him to expand the program.
"We don't ever want to say no," said Parks.