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Building confidence and sports skills every Saturday morning

Learning new skills. Gaining self-confidence. Making new friends and getting fit while having fun. This is what a group of Aldershot girls and boys aged 10-to-12-years are doing every Saturday morning, thanks to a generous grant that helped launch the first-ever ‘Sports 4 You’ program in fall 2011.

Together with True Sport, the Community Foundations of Canada is funding this vital community program that is reaching many low-income families. This free pilot project is bringing together community volunteers who teach sports skills to kids. Running two hours every Saturday morning at St. Philippe School on Francis Road, the program officially kicked-off on October 22, 2011.

Ball hockey, basketball, soccer and volleyball are among the free sports being offered. The program is bringing together many community groups including teen and adult volunteer coaches, the YMCA  and Burlington Parks and Recreation.

According to Shawna MacLellan, Director of Community Outreach with the YMCA “The grant we received benefits the community and continues to make a difference through a number of ways.  It has allowed us to further our mission of making opportunities available to residents of Aldershot, to improve access to programs and engage children and their families.”

Speaking on behalf of the Sports 4 You Aldershot Committee of which she’s also a member, Shawna shares how the program is having an impact “Children who would otherwise be sitting on the couch in front of a game system or TV are now running around the gym on Saturday mornings. They are developing their skills and their self-confidence is growing. They are learning that they do not have to be athletic to have fun playing and remaining active.”

Getting kids out of their homes and interacting with their peers from other Aldershot schools is also helping to build new social networks. All Sports 4 You committee members live and or work in Aldershot. Member Sheila Slattery-Ford, Aldershot Hub Coordinator, Our Kids Network, notes that the “contacts kids are making in the program will make their transition to middle school that much easier. Children are joining together to learn and break down barriers at the same time.”

“Because some neighborhoods are stigmatized, the program is helping to get rid of labels” Sheila shares. “We have involved a new partner in program delivery, the French Catholic School Board. They have proved themselves to be a valued and accommodating partner at providing local access to recreation space at a reduced rate.”

In addition to having fun with new friends, participants recently enjoyed meeting a local athlete. Melanie Booth, a member of the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team who was raised in Burlington and lives in the city, took part in the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her team won gold and Melanie came out to show the Sports 4 You kids some of her winning moves. She spent some time with the kids sharing her story, practicing and inspiring them to reach for their goals.

Also living and working in Burlington, Sports 4 You committee members are major advocates for the city. One committee member moved to the city just two years ago and others have been residents for five to more than twenty years. Committee member Sheila shares “We find Aldershot to be an especially cohesive community where agencies, elected officials and residents work together in partnership to improve the community.”

Living in Aldershot has been a memorable experience. The committee members confirm, “We’re inspired by the needs of children especially from lower income families who live primarily in apartments and town houses, in close proximity to each other and in constant awareness of the privileges of others living only a few blocks away. We are further inspired by the compassion that neighbours have for each other and the growing capacity of this community to care for itself.”

According to committee members, Burlingtonians who reside in Aldershot can support their city more actively by continuing to engage and empower families to become active citizens thus increasing the odds of thriving for those in marginalized situations.

The Sports 4 You Aldershot Committee thanks Burlington Community Foundation and True Sport for granting the funds this program. “Through the course of this program we have had the opportunity to have focus groups with the parents and the participants.” Shawna advises, “It has been amazing to see how our program has led to non-athletic students trying out for school sports teams, thus proving that by providing free instruction and access to sport you can alter lives.”

Sports 4 You is one of two Aldershot programs–together with Education, Fitness and Growth Through Sport–established in 2011 with $30,000 in grants from True Sport and Burlington Community Foundation. The program is a great example of how generous Burlington donors are making a lasting impact on community vitality according to Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO, Burlington Community Foundation. “Kids are learning team dynamics and respect for each other and their coaches. And together, we’re leveraging sport to make a positive difference in the community.”

More information on Sports 4 You. Give now by contacting Colleen Mulholland at 905 639 0744 x222 or cmulholland@burlingtonfoundation.org. Discover our funds created by local donors & fundholders or agencies that you can donate to through us directly, or by visiting Canada Helps.