Jumpstart grant revives skating programs

Skate Canada Manitoulin knows how to put on a show and, even though this will be a skills-development year where young skaters will focus on growing their abilities rather than working toward a year-end performance, the funding from Jumpstart will help them stay on the ice and grow during a tough season. Expositor file photo

MANITOULIN – Skate Canada Manitoulin programs are going ahead this season thanks to a $5,000 grant from Jumpstart, the charity run by Canadian Tire.

“Without the Jumpstart funding, there would have been no skating,” said Abbie Drolet, director of skating programs and head coach at Skate Canada Manitoulin. “We have tried a bit of fundraising but it’s just not a year when families can afford that. Even our pizza sales that are usually amazing, this year they were minimal.”

The funding helped the organizers keep the program costs at $150 and extend the semester to eight weeks instead of the planned reduction to six weeks.

CanSkate is normally a 16-week program across two semesters, while StarSkate is 22 weeks long. 

Ms. Drolet said the local group’s new president, Christine Williston, took charge and made all of the funding dreams come into reality.

“If this wouldn’t have happened, the cost of programming would have quadrupled. I really wasn’t expecting that,” said Ms. Williston. “In my president role at this point, I’m just facilitating grant-writing, and trying to find ways I might be able to fix some holes so we can create a lot of sustainability into the future.”

Although Ms. Williston is quick to admit she doesn’t know a ton about the skating world, her daughter is in a transition between the basic CanSkate program and StarSkate, the figure skating division of Skate Canada Manitoulin.

“I’ve come to appreciate how uniquely qualified (Ms. Drolet) is; she’s gone and done a lot of qualifications you wouldn’t ordinarily see in one person so she would be able to deal with the variables,” Ms. Williston said.

On September 9, Jumpstart launched an $8 million sport relief fund to enable recreation programs to continue offering their services this year.

A Jumpstart press release stated that nearly three in four community sports groups are temporarily closed; more than half will not attempt to resume operations until 2021.

The charity allowed groups to apply until early October and said it would distribute funds to the organizations most in need.

“As a charity that enables inclusive sport and play to help build stronger and healthier communities, we are doing everything in our power to maintain opportunities for kids to get involved beyond COVID-19,” said Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities president Scott Fraser.

Receiving the cheque in early November was a glorious moment for Ms. Drolet. It fully funded the learn-to-skate CanSkate program and helped to extend the offerings for StarSkate from five weeks to eight.

“It gives them that chance to almost relax a bit and just be kids,” she said.

This season, there are 18 skaters enrolled in CanSkate and 19 people enrolled in StarSkate—an increase in numbers that organizers did not expect. All plans have to align with public health gathering size limits; Skate Canada Manitoulin has to maintain a balance between allowing as many children to participate as possible while also keeping the community safe.

She said the application process was very streamlined and organization representatives were available at all hours to help answer questions and guide them toward their submission target.

Skate Canada Manitoulin is no stranger to Jumpstart. It has frequently encouraged families to apply for individual funding of up to $150 per child to offset their registration fees, though eligibility requirements kept some families from the program.

On Manitoulin, Jumpstart applications flow through the Little Current Lions Club.

This year, individual Jumpstart grants were automatically approved for anyone receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Allowing the program to continue this year will have considerable benefits for the young skaters, Ms. Drolet said.

“It falls into long-term health development. Skaters, especially in the CanSkate and StarSkate programs, this is their golden age of learning. A lot of those physical literacy skills develop during this timeframe and can be missed if you lose an entire year of participating,” she said.

For parent Autumn Pegelo, who has three daughters who have been involved with Skate Canada Manitoulin, the ability for the programs to proceed was a welcome relief.

“Having this funding was honestly the best thing that could have happened this year for them,” she said. “After distance learning and being in the house all day, it was really getting to them. And especially with winter coming, they can’t go outside as much. … It could have made for a really long winter.”

The skating group’s Jumpstart experience has been so positive that Ms. Williston has applied for another round of funding in the hopes of continuing the programs into 2021, as they would in a normal year. This time, the group is seeking funding both to offset the CanSkate costs and also for the StarSkate figure skating program.

“We know it’s very expensive. We deal with the math all the time; without fundraising and getting sponsors, it can be completely out of reach for families,” said Ms. Drolet. “Jumpstart has been wonderful to work with.”