Langford’s MacKenna Renaud-Kehoe, 11, has a passion for gymnastics that extends back to when she was four years old.
She trains at Lion’s Pride Gymnastics and after years of determination now competes at the provincial level. In March she reached her pinnacle when she placed first all-around at the Orca Invitational in Duncan.
Renaud-Kehoe’s story is one of passion and success, but for her mother, Francina Kehoe, a single parent, it comes with a cost, specifically around $5,000 a year for training and travel.
“Every year, because she’s at a competitive level now, it’s become increasingly expensive,” Kehoe said. “I was always struggling with making the payments on time. But she loves it.”
Last year Kehoe heard by word of mouth about the SportsAssist program in Langford. She applied, and the program agreed to fund Kehoe’s daughter to the tune of $750. Along with another grant from a Victoria-based assistance program, Kehoe’s monthly costs for her daughter’s sporting passion are down about $100.
“That made a big difference, because I struggle to give her that opportunity,” Kehoe said. “Any help is so appreciated. … We’re really excited to see where she goes with it and as long as she wants to do it, I’ll do my best to support her.”
Now in its sixth year as a program in Langford, SportsAssist is helping 85 local youth to take part in a wide variety of sporting activities this year alone. The number of youth supported by the non-profit organization has increased substantially every year since it’s start with 10 young athletes.
“Our goal is to give every kid a chance to play a sport,” said Gerry St. Cyr, the program’s founder and president. “These kids are kept on the straight and narrow, have some type of coaching direction and have that camaraderie with other kids. … That’s why SportsAssist is there.”
The level of help provided depends on costs associated with an individual sport and the level of need of the family applying. There is a wide range of support levels.
Money for the program comes purely from fundraising and the support of local businesses and individuals, there is no government funding. Every year the program hosts a golf tournament, which is the primary source of funding. Other events, such as a ball tournament and barbecues, help raise money.
St. Cyr said he recently caught up with one of the first young people the program helped in its first year. This person received funding to help him play hockey for five years. He’s now 20, working a good job and plays in an adult league, which he pays for himself.
“Without being able to play sports, he doesn’t know where he would have went. Sports kept him out of trouble,” St. Cyr said. “I know that kids are better kids if they’re involved in sports.”
For more information on the program, or to donate or apply to it, visit sportassist.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.