St. Marys Journal Argus
For a few years, a small number of St. Marys and area residents have become aware of a program called “Jumpstart.” Either they’ve noticed the Canadian Tire retail corporation giving Jumpstart a big promotional boost with an annual fundraising campaign, or they’ve been lucky enough to have one of their young family members participate in organized sport or recreation through the funding Jumpstart allocates.
That limited level of recognition in St. Marys might soon change for this national charity — which is supported by Canadian Tire not just through its promotional campaigns, but also by the fact the retailer pays all of the organization’s administrative costs. All money donated, therefore, goes directly towards the Jumpstart goals of getting kids active even if their parents can’t afford the registration or equipment necessary to make that happen.
The St. Marys chapter of Jumpstart has been running since 2010, and has been run through the town’s Recreation department. Recreation Manager Stephanie Ische has been in charge of administering the funding that’s made available through Canadian Tire’s fundraising efforts.
Now, Ische is one member of a three-member steering committee that will take in all applications for funding and make decisions on allocation. Ische is being joined by Pam McGirr of the St. Marys Salvation Army’s Family Services department, and Michelle Bouwman, one half of the husband-and-wife team that now owns the St. Marys Canadian Tire Store. Bouwman, who will acts as steering committee chair, has a background in social work, although she now works full-time at the store.
According to Bouwman, since 2011 (the first year for which she was able to find complete records), the St. Marys Jumpstart chapter has assisted 182 kids, disbursing $29,695 in funds.
“We know there are more kids in our community who could benefit from funding of program fees and/or equipment for sports,” she told the Journal Argus last week. “With this new working group, we are hoping to promote awareness around the funds available, make them accessible, and get more kids in the game!”
Bouwman would also like to see the St. Marys chapter embrace another aspect of the Jumpstart organization’s stated goals: Building the community’s capacity to offer a wide range of physical activity that’s accessible to kids from all income levels. It’s part of what she refers to as Jumpstart’s Community Development funding initiative.
“Maybe there are other things that maybe people have thought about in the past, but there just hasn’t been any funding,” she said. When asked for examples of activities she thinks might get off the ground if Jumpstart gets involved, she rhymed off several: bowling, basketball, tennis, or programs at the X-Park.
“I have a teenaged daughter. I know I don’t want her to have to hang around with nothing to do, when there could be programs she could be involved with,” Bouwman said. “This is for any kind of sport; any kind of physical activity that involves kids.”
Michelle and her husband Don Bouwman knew as soon as they took over ownership of the St. Marys store last year, after first working in Canadian Tire’s corporate side, that they wanted to build Jumpstart locally. She said they saw it as a way of “giving back” to the customers and their families who have contributed to the store’s success over the years.
“We know firsthand the benefit of sport, having three of our own children actively involved,” she said. “Participation in sport increases a child’s chance for success in life. They discover and participate, they gain self-confidence, they develop self-esteem, and they learn leadership skills.”
Starting this week, Bouwman and co-worker Shannon Rooney will begin visiting area businesses in the hopes of drumming up sponsorships for what Michelle hopes will bring in a huge funding boost for the local Jumpstart chapter. This September, the duo — who have been working out on stationary bicycles and hoping the snow melts away so they can hit the road and train — will ride with approximately 80 other Canadian Tire representatives in “Pedal for Kids,” a 500-kilometre trek from Ottawa to Quebec City.
“Our goal is to raise $10,000 and, if we do, we will be matched another $5,000 from Jumpstart. So that would be $15,000 coming to St. Marys,” she related.
In August, watch for Bouwman and Rooney on Saturdays in the store’s parking lot, riding stationary bikes and raising funds.
For information about how to apply for Jumpstart funds, either for a child's participation in physical activity or to help initiate a new community-based sports program, contact Michelle Bouwman at email@example.com.