It is hardly a revelation that sport is a sector impacted especially hard since March by the pandemic. With sports organizations hurting, every bit helps, including Canadian Tire Jumpstart’s $8 million Sport Relief Fund aiding 668 Canadian organizations.
Among them is the B.C. Wheelchair Basketball Society. Its $15,000 grant from Jumpstart may not seem like a lot but is going a long way.
“It helps us pay for gym time, get more PPE, and gives us a little more assurance through this pandemic period,” said Team B.C. wheelchair basketball coach Simon Cass of Victoria.
“Players like Ben Hagkull need to be training.”
The young star and Camosun College student, Hagkull, trains at PISE and CARSA and is projected for the 2024 Paris Paralympics. It would continue an Island tradition in the sport with the legendary Richard Peter of Duncan winning gold with Canada at the 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens and London 2012 Paralympics and silver at Beijing 2008. The provincial legacy extends to Peter’s wife, the 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Paralympics women’s wheelchair basketball gold-medallist Marni Abbott-Peter of Nelson Up to four of the wheelchair hoops players on both the Canadian men’s and women’s teams to the 2020 Plus One Tokyo Paralympics next summer will be from B.C.
“We have a very strong base here, as will be evident in Tokyo, and strong historical names such as Richard Peter, Marni Abbott-Peter and founder Rick Hansen,” said Sain Blyth, executive director of the B.C. Wheelchair Basketball Society.
But only two of the organization’s 12 clubs – those in Victoria and Prince George – are currently active through the COVID period. Among those inactive due to the pandemic are clubs in Nanaimo and Comox.
“Victoria and Prince George are the only ones in Phase 3 at the moment. There’s been a reluctance by other members who feel at risk, so everyone else is on hold,” said Blyth.
“That’s why this Jumpstart grant will help us recover, reset and rebuild. It comes at a time when we really need it. Sports organizations right now are relying on the resiliency of their staff and members.”
Jumpstart cites a Sport for Life Society national survey of 1,300 sports organizations showing that 73 percent of community sport organizations in Canada are temporarily closed and more than 50 percent will not resume operations until 2021.
Among those on the Jumpstart relief committee is 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics gold-medallist and 2006 Turin Olympics silver-medallist cross-country skier Beckie Scott.
“As we emerge from these challenging times, return to play will be more important than ever and Jumpstart’s Sport Relief Fund will provide options to organizations in-need,” said Scott, in a statement.
Selections for funding are based on greatest need, according to Jumpstart. Recipients range from the Cape Breton Blizzard Female Hockey Association to the Lady Ballers Camp girl-centred sports development program of Brampton, Ont. For many of these 668 organizations, B.C. wheelchair basketball included, it’s a literal lifeline into 2021.