For 10-year-old Madison Kelman getting new running shoes could not have come at a better time, now that summer’s here.
The Grade 5 Queen’s Park student and 25 of her classmates went on a recent field trip to Sport Chek where they were surprised with a fitting for some free sneakers.
“This is really neat cause my other ones are wrecked and I’m going to need these now that we’re going on holidays,” said Madison after picking out the pair of her choice.
She was just one of more than 100 kids from six schools this year who participated in the Gym Club program designed to encourage young people to become more active.
This time around it was the 26 students from Queen’s Park who were chosen to get the runners.
In its third year, funded entirely through the Canadian Tire Jump Start program, it’s made possible through the partnership of Penticton Parks and Recreation, the school district, Pacific Sport Okanagan and local business.
“At the school district level we identified physical literacy as a gap, so the kids that are coming into the schools and even throughout the school are not developing the physical literacy the way we maybe did when we played outside so much more, playtime doesn’t seem to exist as much,” said Jenny Mitchell, health promoting schools coordinator for the district. “There are less kids playing organized sports for a variety of reasons, so how can we as a school district support that and try and get activity to increase and so partnering with the different partners to offer these after school gym clubs for kids and the response has just been phenomenal.”
There are currently six schools participating and organizers are hoping those numbers will continue to climb in the future.
“Kids are just so excited to be part of this program to have an opportunity to play to be involved with some caring leaders from the community and create a more positive experience when they’re trying new movement skills and trying to be active,” said Mitchell. “It gives them an opportunity to build some confidence around their movement skills and to be active and to have fun being active.”
Aron Robinson was one of the half dozen leaders who has been working with the kids and has noticed a significant change from when the students first began the program.
“I can think of a couple of girls and definitely at least one boy at the start who were very hesitant to join in the games, they didn’t feel that they could compete with their friends or other classmates but by the end of the year they’d built so much confidence in themselves,” said Robinson. “I saw so much growth there, they wanted to jump in and participate in everything and we had the opportunity to bring in some guest coaches like dancing and martial arts and just some things like that they wouldn’t regularly get to do in class and some of those kids and some of those who maybe don’t excel as well in team sports really had their chance to shine and some of them really did.
“It’s fantastic to see that, that’s why I love working with kids, all that growth, it’s just really great to see.”
According to Penticton recreation coordinator Kelsey Johnson the city couldn’t wait to get on board with the program when asked by Mitchell.
“The team and the partnerships have been a beautiful thing for these kids,” said Johnson. “It’s all about getting them active and engaged in something after school because that’s kind of the danger zone.
“It’s a very difficult and high risk time so this way we’re keeping them connected and running and, most importantly, having fun.”