There's no easy solution to the rising obesity rates in New Brunswick and across Canada, but Sport New Brunswick (NB) thinks a good place to start is with kids' sports.
"The mission of Sport NB is to assist New Brunswick sports organizations in enhancing lifelong sport participation," says Darcy McKillop, the association's director "That starts with children's sports. Kids who play organized sports are much more likely to stay active, maintain a healthy weight and be involved in athletics throughout their lives."
Sports can also reduce stress, boost self-confidence and social skills, enhance sleep and help build healthy bones and muscles. In short, involvement in sports can have a positive ripple effect throughout a child's life.
This is a lesson that Desjardins Insurance Agent Julie Peterson knows from personal experience. The Fredericton, NB, native has been playing recreational soccer for most of her life, a passion shared by her husband and two children.
"Soccer is huge for my family - we all play or have played. It's a sport that virtually all children can play with minimal equipment cost or experience."
But even the relatively small cost of registration and buying shoes and guards can be a challenge for some families, particularly those that are new to Canada.
To help support families in need, Peterson recently presented a $4,000 Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grant to Sport NB's Amateur Sport Trust Fund, targeted for the Fredericton District Soccer Association.
"Costs are going up all the time for equipment, the fields and so on," explains Peterson. "There is a huge need in this community for donations like ours to introduce more families to sport, but to also to enable children to continue to grow in the sport. It's an investment in their future."
Matthew Latchmore of Napanee, ON, is also a big believer in the value of sports in a child's development. Before becoming a Desjardins Insurance Agent, Latchmore earned an education degree,
specializing in physical education, and knows first-hand about the lack of funding for school athletics departments and how greatly it is appreciated when they do receive financial help.
Latchmore recently presented the Napanee District Secondary School with a $4,000 Desjardins GoodSpark donation to support its athletic department. The money will be used for uniforms, equipment, bus rentals, and other related costs.
"I have a deep connection with sports and athletics. As a kid, I played every sport I could. I had a difficult time in the classroom, and sports taught me many great lessons that were of value later in life," he says.
Latchmore was galvanized to help when Napanee's only high school folded its football program in the fall. Although the reasons were more complex than funding alone, as a former high school and university football player, he felt the need to help encourage athletics at the school and in the community.
The donations to the Napanee school and to Sport NB are both part of an initiative announced late last year by Desjardins Insurance. Under the Desjardins GoodSpark Community Grants Program, more than $271,000 in grants were presented to 76 community organizations in New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta.
Each of the grants included a donation from a local Desjardins Agent. The Agents were invited to nominate organizations, like the Napanee District Secondary School and Sport NB, that are important to them and their communities.
All told, the Desjardins Agents donated over $73,000 of the $271,300 total.
This was the second year that Desjardins Insurance and the exclusive Desjardins Agent Network have teamed up to support Canadian communities. In 2018, a total of $190,000 was given to community initiatives in the three provinces where Desjardins Insurance Agent offices are located.