Rhonda Brown remembers when a group of 18 elementary school students got off the bus before their first session of hockey at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Brown, executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Victoria, which organizes an on-ice mentoring program for children age seven to 11, recalls that essentially, chaos ruled the day.
“Literally, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and were in each other’s space,” she says. “You put them on the ice and it was like they were learning to walk again.”
The students came into the 12-week program with differing physical abilities and attitudes. Brown says the playing field was definitely levelled given that few, if any of the children had ever worn hockey equipment, let alone been on the ice.
The transformation over the three months was amazing, she says.
“When we started they couldn’t make it from one end to the other without collapsing from exhaustion. By the end of the 12 weeks, it was amazing to see the progression in the kids. By the end they were respectful of each other, working together, passing to each other.”
The program is designed to boost the children’s self-esteem and develop teamwork, elements that will hopefully transfer into the classroom and other areas of their lives, Brown says.
The mentoring hockey program is just one of dozens of community programs whose participants are helped financially by the Greater Victoria chapter of Canadian Tire Jumpstart.
Kim Reynhoudt, franchisee for the View Royal Canadian Tire store, which is hosting Jumpstart Day activities for the region Saturday (May 26), appreciates the work the charitable arm of the company does to help families in need in Greater Victoria and across Canada.
“Things get so expensive these days,” he says. “It’s great to have an option where we can help kids get into programs, whether it’s soccer or other sports programs, where they can participate. It’s important to get kids active at a young age. It only helps them in future.”
In Greater Victoria, Jumpstart – comprised of reps from such organizations as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the YM-YWCA, as well as Canadian Tire stores – distributed more than $95,000 worth of services. That meant approximately 1,200 children could sign up for soccer or hockey, have the proper equipment, or enjoy other experiences they might not otherwise be able to.
Showing the growth in the local program, in 2007 the Victoria chapter raised $29,000.
“One thing I like about Jumpstart is 100 per cent of the money raised in the community stays in the community,” Reynhoudt says.
While other more localized fundraising activities happen throughout the year for the charity, Jumpstart Day is the main one for the year across Canada.
A variety of activities, from kids’ games and a barbecue to a slapshot contest and smoothies by donation, are planned for Greater Victoria’s Jumpstart Day between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday. The View Royal store is at 1519 Admirals Rd.