New board resurrects local KidSport program

Okotoks: Kinsmen Club helps kickstart new era with $5,000 donation

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 10:13 am

Bob Cantelon of the Okotoks Kinsmen Club presents Okotoks KidSport chairperson Shari Gustafson with a cheque for $5,000, which will help kickstart to the revamped KidSport organization.
Bob Cantelon of the Okotoks Kinsmen Club presents Okotoks KidSport chairperson Shari Gustafson with a cheque for $5,000, which will help kickstart to the revamped KidSport organization.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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Powered by a new board who brings renewed enthusiasm and expertise Okotoks KidSport is preparing for a resurrection.

Earlier this year Okotoks KidSport was disbanded when its chair Nick Ruigrok stepped down and no one on the existing board could make the commitment to take over. As a result, Okotoks KidSport was taken over by KidSport Alberta.

However, Shari Gustafson has stepped up to take the lead in bringing back Okotoks KidSport. As the charity’s new chair and with a solid new board, Gustafson said she is excited about what the new Okotoks KidSport can accomplish.

“Getting involved does stem from my background and love and involvement with kids and from seeing people in need, but I think it runs deeper than this,” said Gustafson. “Sport played a major role in my life growing up. It contributed a huge part to who I am today. To think that there are youth in our community who could miss out on these opportunities for growth and even opportunities to share their talent — that is what drove me to be involved.”

Gustafson and her husband Andrew have been involved with KidSport for years as they organized the annual Natural High Charity Triathlon in Okotoks, which benefitted KidSport.

When Okotoks KidSport was disbanded, she said they had a lot of people talk to them about trying to get it back up and running locally.

As a teacher, Gustafson said it was troubling to hear youth in the community were not playing sports or enrolling in programs because of financial reasons.

With the interest she heard from other residents and her desire to ensure youth were active Gustafson said she was compelled to try and reorganize Okotoks KidSport.

“When you see the disparity it drives you to get involved,” she said.

When she put out the word to friends and contacts about coming onboard and getting involved with Okotoks KidSport, the response was invigorating.

“I am very optimistic with what we can do,” she said. “We came in with little history, therefore, everything needs to be rebuilt. It is a big task to undertake, but this is something people feel is worthwhile and so many people have expressed an interest in getting involved.”

Several months ago a new board of 10 people was appointed for Okotoks KidSport and now they are starting to develop a list of volunteers who are willing to help with KidSport fundraisers and initiatives. The goal is to host between 10 and 50 events each year to raise funds and awareness for the Okotoks KidSport program.

Gustafson said the previous incarnation of Okotoks KidSport did a fantastic job of building the KidSport brand in Okotoks.

“The previous board has to be credited with developing a huge amount of awareness, but we need to bring to light the fact KidSport is still active in our community,” said Gustafson. “Now we want to increase the number of families and children we are able to assist.”

The new Okotoks KidSport has set a goal of raising $30,000 in 2014, which would enable them to help 150 children at about $250 per child.

With the input from a new board Gustafson said she is confident they can reach their goal.

“We have new members with new ideas,” she explained. “These are exciting people who are eager to get KidSport back in the community and more than that they are eager to help families.

“We are changing KidSport’s focus from raising awareness to more of a focus on helping children.”

KidSport’s fundraising effort was given a substantial boost from the Okotoks Kinsmen Club, which contributed $5,000 to kickstart the renewal process.

Bob Cantelon of Okotoks Kinsmen said they have been proud supporters of KidSport for several years and they are pleased to see a rebirth of the local chapter.

“We wanted to support the local KidSport because they are helping the local kids,” said Cantelon. “We are all about community service and we just wanted to help. Now we hope they can maintain the program in Okotoks.”

For Okotoks KidSport the donation has given the new board some momentum to start developing its vision.

Okotoks KidSport will be hosting a relaunch barbecue party on Feb. 17 as part of Family Day in conjunction with the Town of Okotoks’ activities at the recreation centre. This summer KidSport will also have a presence at the Cohesion Media Charity Golf Classic, the Natural High Charity Triathlon, the Millarville Marathon and other events.

Gustafson said participating in these events will help spread the word Okotoks KidSport is back.

“People are excited and everybody wants to help,” said Gustafson. “The big thing is people see the impact KidSport has on the community. The see the impact sport has on a child’s life — intellectually, emotionally and physically.”

Although Okotoks KidSport was dormant for most of the year KidSport Alberta managed to provide assistance to 100 families in the area in 2013. Since 1995 KidSport Alberta has distributed more than $10 million to 55,000 families across the province.

For more information on Okotoks KidSport email Okotoks@kidsport.ab.ca


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