You only need to spend a few minutes with Jeff and Annabelle Stratford to understand the difference KidSport Greater Victoria has made for thousands of families throughout the Capital Region.
Annabelle, who just completed Grade one at Willway elementary school in Langford, was recently acknowledged as the 10,000 child in need that KidSport Greater Victoria has assisted in helping their dream of playing sports come true. Many of those helped so far are kids on the West Shore involved in sports through the Juan de Fuca soccer and hockey associations.
Jeff said registration for Annabelle and her brother Landon cost $400 each last year, and is set to rise to $600 for Annabelle, in her third year of hockey, and $460 for Landon in his second.
“We simply couldn’t have done it without the help from KidSport,” he said. “Their sticks, skates and equipment have to be upgraded each year because they grow so fast at that age.”
He has seen the difference hockey has made for Annabelle, who he described as shy by nature. “She has gained so much confidence and is blossoming,” he said. “She’s always smiling when she’s on the ice.”
Annabelle said hockey is a lot of fun and she’s made new friends.
KidSport Greater Victoria has raised $2.24 million since its inception in 2002, and has helped 10,000 youth in need with registration fees to local sports organizations. Although that’s an accomplishment the organization is proud of, it has become more of a challenge the past few years, especially when you consider the rising cost of sports registration fees, noted Jill Shaw, executive director for KidSport Greater Victoria.
The aim is to reach more than 1,500 kids this year who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to play at a cost of $420,000, a task made more daunting by the fact that represents double the funding total compared to five years ago.
With only a small amount of funding from the provincial government, the organization has to rely on fundraisers and support from organizations and donors to make ends meet. Most of that comes from two annual main fundraisers, the Thrifty Foods Kids Run and the KidSport Golf Tournament, which has been held for the past five years.
“We’ve had to run a deficit for the past two years,” Shaw said. “We have a reserve fund, but ultimately we’re going to have to increase revenue and look carefully at how to decrease the dollars we distribute annually to ensure our long-term ability to help. At this point, there is simply more need for our support than donations to disperse. Looking at reducing the $400 total we provide [per child] is our worst case scenario.”
Shaw said efforts are underway to apply for more funding grants and create partnerships with the 200 sports organizations they are involved with, as well as plans for a huge fundraiser in October.