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Exclusive Canadian Tire Jumpstart Interview

Featuring Scott Fraser, President of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities

· advocacy,playground,accessibility,inclusion,interview

In 2005, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities was created to address the concern of inactivity in children and youth, particularly those whose families are in financial need, across the country. The World Health Organization recommends children and youth, aged 5-17, should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, to support proper growth and development for the brain and body. According to the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity, children and youth across Canada are barely meeting the guidelines. These current stats across Canada are alarming...

This is a call for Canadian kids to get up, out, and active!

There are obviously many layers that contribute to inactivity levels for children and youth. As an educator and advocate in Health and Physical Education (H&PE), I believe some reasons include the lack of:

  • quality H&PE programs in elementary and/or secondary schools,

  • specialized teachers in the field of H&PE,

  • understanding of the physical and cognitive stages in children and youth,

  • physical environments that promote physical activity, and

  • socio-cultural and socio-economic barriers to participation.

Here is another statistic from the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth that also caught my eye...

Playing outside until sunset is a simple pleasure that has lost its novelty on children today. When I was a kid, active play was so simple. I spent the majority of my childhood riding my bike with my friends, meeting up at the playground to continue a game of tag, and simply exploring the outdoors in my community. Having this unstructured free play was essential for my well-being when I was growing up. I remember the feeling of coming home from school, throwing my back pack into the house, and then running out the door to play outside...

So where do children and youth with disabilities fit in?

The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity also states that children and youth with disabilities are even less active than children and youth who are typical developing. While most extracurricular physical activity programs in Canada are offered through city and community organizations, when it comes to adapted programming for kids with disabilities, they are distinctly lacking. I know that there are many excellent accessible sites, but there are not enough to meet the needs, and there is little or no coordination of efforts or offerings. I also know first hand that additional barriers include inaccessible facilities, and public spaces in the community.

In my last post, Let’s Jumpstart to #PlayBeyondTheLabel, I wrote a review on the Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s Inclusive Playground Project in the heart of North York. What an amazing community space for children and youth of all ages and abilities to simply PLAY! To sum it up, I’d like to reference one of my favourite movies with Kevin Costner from 1989, Field Of Dreams… "If you build it they will come."

I am always amazed with how powerful social media can be, as it brings me so much joy when I learn that my voice has touched someone else. Within the same week of my playground review, Mr. Scott Fraser, President of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, personally reached out to me and invited my family and I to attend the official opening of the Jumpstart Playground in the Earl Bales Park located in North York this past summer. Check out Scott and one of Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s biggest fans!

For this blog post, I have the pleasure of sharing my exclusive interview with Scott, where we got to talk about how this amazing charity came about, what their values are, and what they hope to see in the future for accessible play for all.

MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the field of inclusive play?

SCOTT: I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to play and coach sports throughout my life, and to enjoy watching my two kids participate in a variety of activities and see how that has benefitted them as they’ve grown into adults. I had been with Canadian Tire for well over 25 years when I was asked to assume leadership of Jumpstart, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I was fortunate to lead the Charity just as its mandate was expanding from helping kids in financial need to creating a comprehensive platform to help kids of all abilities benefit from sport and play.

MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities is a national charity dedicated to helping kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport and recreation. It's great to see how your organization is providing opportunities for kids of all abilities to participate in inclusive play. Can you tell me more about how the Para Sport Jumpstart Fund and the Jumpstart Accessibility Grants support organizations for recreational infrastructure and programming?

SCOTT: Jumpstart’s partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee on the Para Sport Jumpstart Fund and our work with Community Partners across Canada that serve the needs of kids with disabilities helped us realize that we could help countless more kids reach their full potential through sport by systematically removing the barriers to inclusive play. These programs are designed to do just that with the Para Sport Jumpstart Fund focused on providing $1 million per year of programming grants to community organizations across the country and the Jumpstart Accessibility Grants designed to provide funding for the creation of inclusive recreational infrastructure. In 2018 we committed to 8 infrastructure grants valued at $8.1 million and awarded 29 Para Sport Jumpstart Grants. In combination with the five inclusive playgrounds we built in 2018, this will create upwards of 117,000 square feet of accessible recreational infrastructure, over 24,000 incremental hours of accessible programs per year and reach 5,192 kids with disabilities across Canada.

MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: Early positive exposure to sports, physical activity, and free play encourages children to find the joy in movement, however, negative experience is a significant deterrent, especially to ongoing participation for children with disabilities.

How does Canadian Jumpstart Charities support families who have children and youth with disabilities access sports and recreation?

SCOTT: When we were developing our inclusive play programs in consultation and partnership with the Canadian Disabilities Participation Project, the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and others, we knew we needed to address several barriers that prevented kids of all abilities from benefiting from sport and play. It’s one of the reasons why we also invested in the development of online resources for coaches and youth activity leaders to help them better understand how to engage in positive, meaningful and enduring interactions with children and youth with disabilities. Supporting Positive Behaviours was developed with our colleagues at the Canucks Autism Network and Coaching Kids of All Abilities with the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with Disabilities. These resources can be accessed here.

MOM BEHIND THE LABELL It’s all about the cycle of conditioning. Active kids who stay active, grow stronger and more physically literate as they age. The cycle of deconditioning works the same way. For children who don’t participate, the less they do, the less they’re able to do. Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s vision is to create large-scale, accessible playgrounds in every province and territory across Canada. Can you tell us about the Jumpstart Inclusive Playground Project? How will this initiative support communities in fostering physical activity and play for children and youth of all abilities?

SCOTT: Our vision for the Jumpstart Inclusive Playgrounds is that they will serve as a catalyst for making inclusive play the norm across Canada. We intentionally set a goal of building one playground in every province and territory so that we could engage communities and community leaders across Canada. In addition to building the playgrounds, we are working with all the municipalities that receive one to ensure that ongoing inclusive programs and additional inclusive recreational infrastructure remain top-of-mind. By partnering with the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto we are evaluating the impact of these playgrounds so that we can continue to improve their design and also to develop what we hope will become the first national guideline for inclusive play spaces in Canada. These playgrounds are going to be more than just an amazing place to play and be active for kids of all abilities.

MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: In 2018, Canadian Tire Jumpstart opened playgrounds in Charlottetown and Winnipeg. In 2019, there are now inclusive playgrounds in Calgary, Prince Albert and Toronto. What have you learned through your Inclusive Playground Project journey in identifying, removing, and preventing accessibility barriers?

SCOTT: The most exciting thing that we are learning is that municipalities across the country want to do this important work. They want to break down the barriers that prevent kids of all abilities from enjoying sport and play together. But many don’t know how or lack the resources they need. And so the reception has been immensely positive, and the creativity and innovation that we have sparked with our municipal partners is inspiring and exciting.

MOM BEHIND THE LABEL: The reality is every child deserves a safe, comfortable and happy place to play. Your organization continues to redefine what inclusion looks, sounds, and feels like through your projects and community initiatives across Canada. My family and I are very fortunate to be able to access the Jumpstart Playground in North York, however there are still many communities who don’t have access to an inclusive playground design that affords all children the opportunity to play. I believe that playgrounds should allow all children to take part in a cherished childhood activity. What advice can you give to families who are trying to advocate for an accessible playground in their communities?

SCOTT: One of our key learnings is that awareness and resources are real tangible challenges for many municipalities. So using evidence informed designs that are endorsed and accepted by the thought leaders in this sector is important, as is knowing where external sources of support (such as Jumpstart Accessibility Grants) exist. Designing and building an inclusive space should be a collaborative process and a celebration for the community that everyone can be involved in.

Play is a freely chosen and intrinsically motivating activity. I believe that it is part of the core in human development. It is through play that we simply have fun in an environment where we can share our abilities. Thank you Scott, for taking the time to contribute to this blog post. And a huge thanks to the CT Jumpstart organization for creating playgrounds where all kids of all ages are inspired to play!

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