A unique community partnership is making kids pretty happy in the Yukon. The Kids’ Recreation Fund, an NCB reinvestment program established in 1999, provides funding of up to $300 per year for eligible children to take part in a wide range of activities from sports to summer camps to bicycling.
Pat Living, the program manager for the Yukon’s Health and Social Services explains that the idea for the Kids’ Recreation Fund (KRF) came out of the Yukon Government’s general anti-poverty strategy. “Originally, KRF operated under the structure of the Youth Investment Fund,” said Pat. “Then we approached Sport Yukon, a local non-profit that overseas and administers sport organizations in the Yukon Territory. Rather than KRF being another government-run children’s anti poverty program, we had our first community partner.”
Pat explained that the partnership with Sport Yukon showed that the KRF was not just a responsibility of government, but a shared, community program.
Moira Lassen, the KRF program administrator for Sport Yukon, talked about the program’s success.
“Over the past two years alone we’ve had over 900 children take part in various sports and life skills activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Families can apply anytime for the program. Our application form and process are very simple and families like the idea of applying to Sport Yukon rather than a government assistance program.”
Her daughter gets to go to a summer adventure camp where she learns rock climbing, kayaking, and safety practices. And her son took gymnastics last winter and got a certificate of achievement. “He still talks about it,” says Gail (not her real name). “They both get to try new things I wouldn’t be able to do for them. They meet friends and peers and have a healthy lifestyle."
As a single parent, Gail’s first priorities are food and rent. Although she might not have money for all these activities, she feels good about the simple application process and dealing with Sport Yukon rather than a government department.
As Program Manager, Pat Living says, “The money goes straight for kid’s stuff, it’s not used in any other way.”
“We’ve made this program into a real community effort,” adds Jan Downing, who helps run the program through her work at the Territory’s Sport and Recreation Branch. “ We now augment the KRF program funding with community fundraisers. We’ve instituted a “Cookie Dough Challenge” and on National Child Day, we sell cookie dough - complete with samples - to local businesses, the Medical Association, the Law Society, the RCMP, other government agencies, even the NHL Oldtimers’ game. Not only do we raise money, but we build community awareness for KRF.”
Believe it or not, they sold enough cookie dough throughout the Yukon for over 110,000 cookies and, in the process, increased the KRF pot by around 15%.
And who does all this work benefit?
Therese’s daughter Mary, for one. Therese, who is originally from South Africa, heard about the KRF through Mary House, a women’s transition shelter in Whitehorse. “I have four children and limited resources so Mary House approached us,” said Therese. “We applied to the KRF for money to pay for an electric keyboard that now enables Mary, who’s 13, to take piano lessons.”
Mary had listened to a classical music CD of her mother’s and also had friends who played the piano.
“My daughter has always loved music,” says Therese. “One thing I can see is joy when she plays the piano. It’s always ’Mama, come and hear this, Mama come and hear this!‘ It’s given her the chance to really master something.”