The Ottawa Sport Council has committed to helping inclusive sports programs continue amidst the difficult circumstances of COVID-19 regulations and shutdowns.
The 2020 Ottawa Sport Council Foundation True Sport Community Grant will benefit two inclusive sports programs, with up to $1,500 per project.
According to Ottawa Sport Council Executive Director Marcia Morris, inclusive sports programs have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 this year.
“We’re quite certain because of everything that has happened because of COVID, it is going to be even more challenging to provide that. That’s the whole point of the grant this year – how can we allow you to maintain that program by giving you some support,” Morris said.
Supporting inclusive sports programs means helping kids participate who are facing barriers such as physical or intellectual disabilities, or not being able to afford registration fees. The grant will help organizations with various program expenses, including personnel, facility, and equipment costs.
Any incorporated not-for profit organizations that offer sports programs in Ottawa, and have operated and been incorporated for at least one year in Ontario, can apply.
The Ottawa Sports Council is accepting applications until Nov. 27 at 5 p.m.
Specific examples of how inclusive sports programs have been affected by COVID-19 include new building capacity and locker room rules. Many sports programs are down 50 percent in participants due to sports facility regulations. That means a program that regularly had 20 kids participating in a practice or scrimmage would be down to 10.
For inclusive sports programs, that participant number could be even lower due to some kids needing support from a parent or helper during their sports activities. Those sports programs could be down to as few as five participants as building capacity rules constrict.
Another rule that has been recommended by the Ontario Hockey Federation in Ottawa this year is for participants to come to the arena dressed. That may not be possible for someone with a physical disability.
Morris recognizes that these issues are not always not of mind for members of the Ottawa sports community.
“[Inclusivity] is a pillar because everybody should be able to play sport and often times there are barriers. The Ottawa Sport Council believes there should only be positive experiences in sport. So, at the end of the day if we can help to break down some of those barriers to make sure everybody gets the opportunity to play, that’s pretty important.”
Organizations who have received the grant in years past include City of Ottawa Ringette for their ‘Ringette for All’ program. It was established for children with physical or intellectual disabilities to have the opportunity to participate in ringette.
Another grant was to the Ottawa TFC Soccer Club and the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation for their ‘Shoot for the Stars’ community soccer program. The program offered soccer programming at no cost to families in three Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods.
As part of the application process, sports organizations must convey how the grant money will be used to support an inclusive program.
“Really, we don’t come up with the ideas. We fund really great ideas from our members who have ideas of how they want to improve inclusivity in sport.”
Morris says she encourages anyone who wants to get involved in making sport more inclusive in the city to reach out to the Ottawa Sport Council.
She expects the two sports programs to be selected for the 2020 Ottawa Sport Council Foundation Grant sometime in December, so that they can have access to the funds early in the new year.