A youngster helps wash a car at last year’s Jumpstart Day at the Chilliwack Canadian Tire (7560 Vedder Road). Saturday is Jumpstart Day 2014

A youngster helps wash a car at last year’s Jumpstart Day at the Chilliwack Canadian Tire (7560 Vedder Road). Saturday is Jumpstart Day 2014

Community pitches in for Jumpstart day

An annual event to raise money to help youths access sports programs, Jumpstart day is Saturday at Canadian Tire.

Jody Fostvelt’s voice starts to choke up as she talks about what Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Program has meant to her daughter.

“It’s helped her (11 year old Ayla) to feel a part of her community and be able to do what her friends are doing,” the teary-eyed mom says. “It makes her feel like she’s still part of the group.”

Jumpstart (jumpstart.canadiantire.ca/en/) is a program that helps youths with economic disadvantages access sports that would otherwise be out of reach.

A few years ago, Jody thought she’d never have any need for such a program. She had a steady job as a construction project coordinator in Kamloops.

She owned a place of her own, with three bedrooms and a nice backyard. But her’s is a cautionary tale about how quickly things can change.

When her company restructured, Jody  found herself out of work, with the mortgage and other bills piling up.

“The day I got laid off is the day I had to put my house on the market,” she says. “When I sold it, the bank took $30,000 and the realtors $15,000 and there was nothing left over. We literally had to start over again with nothing.”

Starting over meant putting her stuff into storage and moving in to a friend’s house in Chilliwack while she tried to find work that wasn’t there. Construction wasn’t booming in Chilliwack, and it took Jody a year to find somewhat steady income.

Eventually she switched gears and careers, moving into the care of people with developmental disabilities.

A rewarding job, she says, but one with sparse hours and not-great pay.

To supplement her income, she cleans a house for a senior citizen and provides respite care for an autistic boy. But at $21,000 a year, Jody’s hard-pressed to pay the rent, put food on the table and provide Ayla the necessities of life.

Pay-to-play activities are a luxury she can’t afford.

“It’s heartbreaking telling Ayla that I don’t have the money for things,” Jody says. “We have to make hard decisions, but she understands. There are things that happen at school, and she doesn’t even bring home the forms because she knows I just can’t afford it.”

Through Jumpstart, Jody has been able to give Ayla a 12-month leisure centre pass that lets her go to the pool  (and sometimes skating) whenever she wants. Last summer, Ayla was able to zip-lining in Maple Ridge through a program at the Cheam Leisure Centre.

“The leisure centre pass is great because she can go anytime she wants and I don’t have to think about it for a whole year,” Jody says. “When her friends call her up, I’m just so thankful to say, ‘go ahead.’ I couldn’t keep paying for it every time she wanted to go, and it’s so great that she’s not missing out.”

Jody says a program like this requires some ‘swallowing of pride,’ but she also says no one should be afraid to ask for help.

“Jumpstart is such a huge benefit for the kids and you swallow your pride for them,” she says. “This community is so amazing. I’ve never seen people who are so helpful and ready to give a helping hand. A program like Jumpstart is there for a reason, and all you have to do is ask.”

Every year, the local Canadian Tire, in partnership with the local chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, (mentoringworks.ca)  hosts Jumpstart Day.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the day for this year’s event, with things going on from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There’ will be a car wash and barbecue, 4H dogs and the Phantasy Farms train.

The Chilliwack Fire Department appears, along with Community Policing and various sports groups.

All proceeds stay in Chilliwack, and last year 350 local kids were able to get involved in sports last year.  Since 2005 2,138 children have been helped and $224,900 dollars have been disbursed.

Nationally, Jumpstart has helped more than 730,000 kids over the last nine years.

Jody and Ayla try to get involved every year as their way of giving back.

“We went last year and it was great fun,” Jody said. “Ayla sees other kids from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, and for that day she’s part of a team. I’m excited to see how excited she gets about giving back.”

Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart Red Ball campaign continues through to the end of may, encouraging customers to donate $2 in exchange for a Red Ball.