Sport Calgary partners with MRU, Jumpstart, to bring inclusive play opportunities to children with disabilities

Postmedia file photo. The Calgary Adaptive Hub (CAH) project was created to increase access to sport opportunities for children with physical, mental, sensory and developmental disabilities.

Seven Calgary organizations have paired up with a national charity to bring new and improved inclusive and adaptive physical activity programs to children with disabilities across Calgary.

Mount Royal University, Repsol Sport Centre, WinSport, Vivo, University of Calgary, and Sport Calgary partnered to create the Calgary Adaptive Hub (CAH) project in an effort to increase access to sport opportunities for children with physical, mental, sensory and developmental disabilities.

“The programs that are already existing have been really great programs but perhaps haven’t been given the attention and the resources that they deserved to become more sophisticated,” David Legg, chair of the CAH and professor of adaptive physical activity at MRU said. “We’re hoping to address that gap between where children with disabilities are being physically active compared to their able-bodied peers.”

The project is funded by Jumpstart, who will be providing up to $200,000 per year for the next three to five years.

Legg said the ability for children with disabilities to have access to inclusive physical activity options will have positive impacts throughout the community.

“Evidence suggests children with disabilities are not as physically active as their able-bodied peers,” he said. “I would argue it’s even more important for those individuals physical and mental health and for their families.”

Legg said the group is currently looking to hire a project manager and “knowledge translation expert” and, as COVID-19 continues to prevent the group from launching face-to-face programming, they’ll be moving online.

“We are really trying to capitalize on Jumpstart’s online platform where they’ve created a number of physical activity programs… We’re going to work with them in partnership and really try to accentuate those and further enhance and develop them.”

Marco Di Buono, Jumpstart’s VP of programs and operations, said Calgary’s program was created by building off “some of the best practise we have in other parts of the country” such as at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Ont.

“It’s a fully integrated facility that leverages research and partnerships to create opportunities for kids with disabilities across the spectrum,” Di Buono said. “We’ve been working with partners in Calgary for many years who were interested in replicating that model but adding unique characteristics based on their capabilities in Calgary.”

Partner agencies with appropriate existing facilities, such as MRU, UCalgary and WinSport will be assisting in launching the program when able.

“Obviously we want these kinds of programs to become implemented as standard offerings over time,” Di Buono said, “so the goal is not for them to always be dependent on Jumpstart, but ultimately to integrate all of the learnings of the initial three to five years into their business plan.”

In a statement, Catriona Le May Doan, president and CEO of Sport Calgary, said it’s a unique opportunity for the city of Calgary to have access to this type of programming.

“Together with our partners we are bringing nationally leading adapted sport and recreational programming to our city,” she said. “Extending and building new adaptive programming will help more Calgarians and children with disabilities experience the power of sport and recreation.”

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