SportStart helping children to stay active
Catherine Wikaira knows better than most what it costs to keep kids playing sport.
The Nelson solo mum's 12 children love their netball, volleyball, rugby, touch, rippa rugby, football and softball.
But finding the money so they can take part has been a struggle.
However, it's been made much easier through the help she has received from Sport Tasman's SportStart, a funding initiative designed to assist children from families suffering financial hardship to participate in sport and physical activity.
Five of Wikaira's children have been among about 200 in Nelson and Marlborough each year to receive modest grants to help pay their sports fees.
The grants - which are paid directly to a sports club or school - are $30 per child (ages 5-12 years) and $50 per child (ages 13-18 years). No-one can receive more than two a year, but Wikaira said they have been a "godsend".
They have enabled her children to play softball, netball and volleyball, and she is grateful for the "awesome" Sport Tasman funding she has received over the years.
"It has made a difference to us, otherwise my children would have been unable to participate in these sports," she said.
"It can be really daunting when you realise how much each sport costs and you know your child desperately wants to play but you just can't afford it.
"It is amazing that there is some funding out there that helps our children participate in sports as I believe that keeping our children in sports is one of the best things that we, as parents, can do for them."
Jane Gass, of Nayland Primary School, who has helped Wikaira apply for funding, says at a time when sport is becoming more expensive, SportStart enables recipients who could not otherwise afford to participate. She said it gave those children the chance to play and be part of a team with their peers, which is "very important" in a child's development.
Another to see first hand the good that SportStart has done is Stoke Hockey Club secretary Robbi Sinclair.
"Our hockey club has had individual junior players benefit from Sport Tasman's SportStart programme during the last two years, enabling them to continue playing a sport that they love.
"Team sports build life skills on and off the turf and any support that offers children the opportunity to enrich their lives in this way has to be a good thing."
Sport Tasman administrator Lynette Lloyd, looks after SportStart and says the amount raised to pay for the scheme ranges from between $2000 and $7700 a year but more is always needed so they can do more.
Funding comes from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, Air Rescue and Community Services and the Rutherford Rotary Club of Nelson, while Sport Tasman is selling entertainment books with $13 from each sale going directly to SportStart.
"We would welcome more businesses and individuals to donate to the cause so we could raise the amount given out," Lloyd said.
She says while it is "very humbling" receiving thank-you letters, emails and cards from recipients, there are still many families that either don't know about the scheme or are too shy to reach out for help.
"It's saddening to imagine our young ones having to watch sport rather than play because their families can't afford it."
All applications for funding are treated confidentially.
For more information about SportStart contact Lynette Lloyd at Sport Tasman 03 923 2320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nelson Mail