Last Friday was the last day of our Chilliwack Power Soccer after school program. 8 players participated in this program and had their first experience with power soccer – and for some, their first experience with a team sport! We’re looking forward to continuing to play and build Power Soccer in Chilliwack next fall.
After the end of this program, we received an email from Colin Reid, a Vice Principal in the Chilliwack school district acknowledging the hard work of everyone who made this pilot program a success. We’d also like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who made the program possible, including Coach Cole Rutter, Cheryl Vinchoff, and Galen Soon.
I believe we all enjoy celebrating the great work that is happening in the Chilliwack School District, and so I would like to share this story with you about an exception group of staff that came together to create a special opportunity for an exceptional group of students.
In early December Mark Klassen tipped-off the Student Services Department about a grant opportunity from the After School Sports and Arts Initiative (ASSAI). This grant provides additional funding for after school programs that reduce the barriers that some students may have when accessing after school activities, specifically students with special needs. Several lead members of the Student Services team, Cheryl Vinchoff – Occupational Therapist, Grietha Van Gameren – AAC Specialist, and Galen Soon – Low Incidence Coordinator immediately took to writing a grant proposal to create an amazing experience for some of our most amazing students.
By March we heard the great news that we were successful in our grant application and we would have $13,600 coming to our district to support after school activities for students who may not have typical access to our other after school opportunities. The team of Cheryl, Grietha, and Galen quickly expanded to include several of our Educational Assistants, Melanie Baumstark and Melanie Litster from Strathcona, Trudi Chester and Susan Sommerville from Bernard, Medina Skinner and Chelsea Kingma from Robertson, Jodie Adam from Central, Sheri Bawtenheimer and Sheila Tait-Pottinger from VMS, Carri Magnusson from GWG, and Sonya Venema from FG Leary. Jade Werger from SportAbility BC also joined the team and provided valuable knowledge and equipment.
By April, our first after school Friday sessions of Power Chair Soccer and after school Wednesday sessions of Art and Tech Adventures were in motion. Students who would not typically participate in our regular after school sports and activities instantly found comfort among friends in these programs. Students who have never, in their life, had the opportunity to kick a soccer ball were playing soccer. And students who struggle to socialize during a regular school day, let alone after the bell has ended the day, were playing, creating, and making friends. Both of these programs were run free of charge and transportation was provided for everyone. These programs ran throughout April and May and came to an end last Friday and yesterday. Parents attended the final sessions to watch as students received awards and they shared in a pizza party complete with pizza that the students had made themselves.
It is difficult to describe the impact that these opportunities had on our students with special needs. Hearing that a student, who uses a power chair on a daily basis, told a visitor to her school “You know, I’m a pretty good soccer player” clearly defines that impact for me. The staff who made these programs possible provided something for our students that they would not have found anywhere else.
I would like to thank everyone mentioned in this email very much for making these opportunities possible for our students. If any of these staff members work in your school and you happen to bump into them in the coming days, please take a moment to let them know how much we appreciate their work.
Mr. Colin Reid
Vice Principal – Student Services
Chilliwack School District
8430 Cessna Drive, Chilliwack, BC V2P 7K4