Ottawa Sport Council pilots inclusivity initiative in Rideau-Vanier

Photo: Dan Plouffe.

By Dan Plouffe

There were no medals, trophies or championships, but the smiles and cheers of youngsters from Ste.-Anne elementary school celebrating a simple relay race win underlined the magic of sport.

For Marci Morris, there isn’t much sweeter than that type of scene. The executive director of the Ottawa Sport Council is thrilled to see the Rideau-Vanier Multisport Project come to life – a pilot program that seeks to get kids more active in underserved communities.

“Sport should be for everybody,” underlines Morris, who would like to see the initiative spread across the city in the future. “This is such an opportunity to develop sport, and use sport as a development tool.”

The project took root when the Ottawa Sport Council scanned the city and determined there were a number of areas that weren’t being served by community sports clubs.

“A very big reason for that is economic,” explains Morris, whose group chose Rideau-Vanier as the first ward to tackle since it has the lowest socio-economic demographic in Ottawa. “That’s probably because there is no money for children to participate in community sport programs, and secondly, most people are working, so there are very few, if any, volunteers to run community sport organizations.”

The Sport Council received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to get the program started. That allowed them to hire an experienced program coordinator in Alex Dumond, who’s competed for Canada internationally in biathlon, has worked for the Coaching Association of Canada, and helped run the Nepean Sailing Club’s able-sail program.

Alongside support from the office of Rideau-Vanier councillor Mathieu Fleury, Ottawa Community Housing, Le Patro d’Ottawa and area schools, the Ottawa Sport Council partnered with the Ottawa Internationals Soccer Club and the Ottawa-Carleton Ultimate Association to offer a 10-week after-school program to students from Grade 4-6 at 3 schools.

The goal is “that when the program ends, the kids will have enough skills and knowledge” to play the pair of inexpensive sports on their own, Morris notes, and “to get them active and to create that lifelong desire to stay active – for health reasons, but also all the other things sport will offer to them, like leadership opportunities, group cooperation and teamwork, learning new skills, and being attentive and disciplined.”

CORA & Christie Lake Kids receive grants

Inclusivity in sport has become a major focus for the 6-year-old Ottawa Sport Council, and the key subject of its own granting program, run in collaboration with the national True Sport Foundation. The Council recently announced its pair of selected recipients for 2018 – the City of Ottawa Ringette Association and Christie Lake Kids.

Modelled after the Capital City Condors in hockey, CORA will offer a “ringette for all” program open to players with physical and mental disabilities. Christie Lake Kids will launch a no-cost program to bring sport to girls from the Strathcona Heights neighbourhood who face sport participation barriers – often cultural – and help them acquire physical, character and social skills.

“We’re thrilled to have people finding out about (the grant program), and we’re thrilled about the work people want to do,” highlights Morris, who was impressed by the quality of applicants they received. “It’s so nice to see so many people want to improve inclusion in sport. It’s obviously fulfilling a need.”

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