New initiative for youth

The announcement of the new youth program at the SaskAbilities Swift Current branch was attended by representatives from ACT/UCT, the Ability Bowl kingpin sponsor, and a family that will participate in the new program, Jan. 29. From left to right, SaskAbilities Swift Current Community Relations Coordinator Candace Toma, ACT/UCT President Larry Hahn, Barb Schuetz and her son Jude, ACT/UCT Secretary/Treasurer Ron Caswell, and SaskAbilities Swift Current Program Manager Jayda Watson.

SaskAbilities Swift Current has started a new youth program to help young people make social connections and to have inclusive experiences with their peers.

The Social Leisure Youth Program (SLYP-Out) was officially launched during an open-house Wii party at the SaskAbilities Swift Current branch, Jan. 29. The event was attended by a volunteer crew from RBC and representatives from ACT/UCT, the Ability Bowl kingpin sponsor.

SaskAbilities Swift Current Program Manager Jayda Watson said the new program is a response to positive feedback from participants and families to the Summer Fun program, which has been offered in the community for several years in July and August.

“They were wanting more, looking for continuing opportunities throughout the year, not just in the summer,” she mentioned. “So we took that opportunity to look at how we could provide that service year-round.”

SLYP-Out will be available throughout the year to the same group of young people between the ages of six and 22 experiencing disabilities. It will offer them opportunities to attend events and activities in the community, which will create possibilities for interaction and the development of friendships.

The new program fits in well with the broader mission of SaskAbilities to build inclusive communities for people of all abilities.

“We're always trying to be out in the community, to be involved, whether that's connecting somebody with a meaningful volunteer opportunity or a meaningful social connection with a club that they're interested in or an activity that they're interested in participating in,” she said.

SLYP-Out already started in the fall and the response has been positive. There are currently around 15 participants and it is open to more youth to join the fun.

“It's right now running about one to two times a month, based on different things happening in the community and interest of individuals that are in the program,” Watson noted. “We try to match around interest and what's happening. …We still are accepting more individuals to the program. So if there are more people that are interested, they can reach out to us and still get involved.”

SLYP-Out participants have been attending Swift Current Bronco games and various events at the Lyric Theatre.

“We try to tap into what the community has on the go, so whether it's a Bronco game or a Swift Current 57's baseball game in the summer, or the numerous events that the Lyric Theatre hosts,” she said. “We'll also make use of The Center downtown, we're good partners with them. So just anything that the community has going on. We’ll try and assist individuals to attend, based on what they're interested in.”

Barb Schuetz and her 14-year-old son Jude attended the SLYP-Out launch. Jude has participated in the Summer Fun program and he has also been to Camp Easter Seal at least four times.

“It was really nice last year in Summer Fun,” Barb said. “Everyone who was in Summer Fun in his age group were all class mates to be, because he started at the Comp this year in Grade 9. … I really like being able to introduce Jude to Summer Fun and SLYP-Out and Camp Easter Seal too to get him part of the group and meet other people like him.”

Jude has been visiting the hockey rink with his family since the age of three, because his older brother is an avid player. Jude is already well-known around the rink, and hockey has been a good way to get him out in the community. Barb felt SLYP-Out can provide another useful way for her son to interact with people in the community.

“After hockey is done, then what do you do?” she asked. “It's hard to get out in the community. So then Summer Fun and the SLYP-Out program still offer that opportunity to get out in the community and be part of it.”

SaskAbilities Swift Current previously offered a similar program to the new SLYP-Out initiative, but it relied on grant funding. The intention therefore is to fund SLYP-Out with funds raised at the annual Ability Bowl.

“This time the program is dependent completely upon funds raised by Ability Bowl,” SaskAbilities Swift Current Community Relations Coordinator Candace Toma said. “That is a major difference than what had happened in the past. There was a funding opportunity available that doesn't exist anymore. So this is very important for us obviously to make those funds up through generous contributions for Ability Bowl.”

The 33rd annual Ability Bowl will take place at Frontier Bowling Lanes in Swift Current on April 25. This longstanding event is an important fundraiser that supports various programs and services offered by the SaskAbilities Swift Current branch. This year’s fundraising goal is $100,000.

“It's a lofty goal, but we've been really fortunate to have great generosity from across southwest Saskatchewan, not just in the city, from across the region,” she said. “We're pretty confident that people understand the importance of being inclusive and supporting great programs like the one we're launching here today.”

Each Ability Bowl has a theme that adds to the fun of the event. This year it will be Superhero Bowl and teams can therefore dress in the outfits of their favourite comic book superheroes. At the same time, this theme is a reminder of the diversity of abilities between everyone in the community that needs to be celebrated.

“The way that we look at it is everybody is a superhero,” she said. “Everybody has a different kind of superpower and we like to celebrate that and truly we do think that not all heroes wear capes and that looks different to different people, and that's what we want to celebrate.”

Registration is now open for Ability Bowl Superhero Bowl. Online registration can be done at www.abilitybowl.ca

“Pledges can be given that way as well, which is really nice to have that option,” Toma said. “You can just post it and share it on your Facebook wall and people are taking part in it that way.”

SaskAbilities is also selling tickets in the community for the Ability Bowl progressive 50/50 draw. Tickets at $2 each are on sale until April 15 and the draw will take place on April 17. A maximum of 10,000 tickets will be sold, which will mean the winning ticket will be worth $10,000.

For any information about Ability Bowl, call 306-750-7247 or send an e-mail to abilitybowl@saskabilities.ca

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