Sport’s Day in Canada is Saturday, September 29th. It’s a national celebration of sport, from grassroots to high-performance levels. Sport’s Day kicks off a week of over a thousand local events and activities such as festivals, tournaments, meet-and-greets and pep-rallies. Sports Day in Canada is presented by CBC Sports, ParticipACTION and True Sport, and the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation is proud to be greatly involved in this year’s celebration.
Officials from ParticipAction and True Sport joined Dwayne Green, Executive Director of Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation, and a handful of local kids from the Jets Hockey Academy at the MTS IcePlex on Wednesday to help spread the word.
The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy kicked off its sixth year of introducing hockey to underprivileged kids in Winnipeg. Classes of Grade 2's, 3's and 6's took to the ice for their first session and for many, it was their first time ever on skates. The program previously ran under the Manitoba Moose Yearling Foundation and now continues its success with the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation.
With a little bit of help from various partnerships and corporate sponsors, and a spike in funds as a direct result of the Jets return to Winnipeg, the foundation has been able to nearly triple the size of the program from 150 kids, to 425 kids this year.
"We talked with all the schools and administrations involved and one of the big things that we found was attendance rates were well up, well over 90 per cent in all the schools we were involved with," said Green. "Probably one of the biggest impacts was those administrations indicating that families were more engaged in coming to parent-teacher interviews or coming to watch kids play.
"When you can engage families and schools and the greater community with the positive affects of youth and having that opportunity to see these young kids getting positive's out of the great game of hockey... that's what we're doing it for."
Several new companies have jumped on board with the Jets Hockey Academy, offering to take part in the “adopt a class” program in which the sponsors donate their staff hours. In addition to existing sponsor E.H. Price, Birchwood Automotive, Princess Auto, True North Sports & Entertainment, Maple Leaf Construction and Investors Group have all joined the program.
“It’s great to be able to give back to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity and to be able to tie it to them attending school is a way that we can have a positive influence on the youth of the province and the future leaders of the province.” said Green.
“I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s rewarding for sure. When you have 50 students out here and 75 percent of them haven’t put on gear before, it’s organized chaos, but it’s beautiful to see them out there and participating like that.”