Gear swap in Langley helps make ball hockey more accessible for kids

A new initiative allows parents to empty garages of unused equipment and get new kids in the sport.

Four-year-old Parker Edmunds, and his older brother Lukas, were all smiles as their mom and dad helped outfit them in some new ball hockey gear at the George Preston Recreation Centre Sunday.

Parker was even grinning when he adamantly declined to wear purple shin pads, crossing his arms and taking a stance to boycott the idea, despite coaxing and assurances offered by mom and a few coaches.

Ninety per cent of the kids who register to play with the Valley Ball Hockey Association do so online.

But there is still a small contingent who prefer to register in person – anxious for a chance to chat with and ask questions of the group’s executive and coaches.

And among those who dropped by in person to register this weekend were Amy and Randy Edmunds of Brookswood. They brought their seven-year-old son Lukas and four-year-old Parker to sign up for their first ever season of ball hockey.

The boys’ excitement was obvious by the big smiles on their faces.

They were even more joyous when they were given the chance to pick out, try on and take home some gear they’ll need this season.

That was possible thanks to the association’s new Giving Back – Moving Forward initiative, explained VBHA president Craig McDougall.

This new program allows parents to donate equipment that their kids have outgrown, and in turn parents new to the sport can get help outfitting their kids in gear that could sometimes prove too cost prohibitive for some families, he said.

“We all have this garage full of sticks and gloves and everything,” said McDougall, who has been involved in various levels of the organization since his oldest teenage boy was four.

The concept for Giving Back came up recently, and admittedly, McDougall said, it was a bit of a rush to pull it together in time for registration. But, in hindsight, he can’t believe they didn’t do it before now – insisting it will become an annual program.

It just took realizing the wealth and putting that together with the need in the community, to create the Giving Back initiative, he said.

“Part of our organization is all about making sure that the kids have an opportunity to play sports,” he said, pointing to the example of one youngster who left just minutes earlier excited with a huge grin on his face.He was able to register, and walked away with a helmet, stick, and shin pads. Now, all he needs are knee and elbow pads, then he’s ready for game, McDougall explained.

“That was a saving of about $150 for his first year of play,” which can be a lot for young families struggling to make ends meet, he elaborated.

“We have a number of new players coming in today who are trying on helmets, gloves, sticks… things that can help them play this season. That’s what it’s about, getting the kids active and playing, and giving back to the community.”

Just a few weeks ago, VBHA put out a call to the families of all recent hockey players, asking then to consider donating equipment that’s no longer needed or wanted. McDougall was impressed with the outpouring of donations.

Even many team members, who had already registered online, still took the time to come by for the one-day registration session – just to donated some equipment for others in need.

Between the online and Sunday’s in-person registrations, McDougall said the group is close to 1,100 players strong heading into the spring season – which kicks off in April.

There will be 70 teams, with boys and girls from 196th Street east to Hope, and from the Canadian border north to the Fraser River participating. They range in age of from four to 18 years old.

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