Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester has partnered up with the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program, Sport Chek, The Rath Eastlink Community Centre (RECC), and United Way of Colchester County to offer the “Sneaker Project.” The Sneaker Project is a five-week program that includes weekly 30-minute active sessions, educational sessions with various Mentors in our community, and healthy snacks. Taking place at Harmony Heights Elementary School, participants receive a free pair of sneakers at the end of the program.

For the first session, players from the Truro A Bearcats joined as the facilitating Mentors. The kids were thrilled to have these athletes stop by for some fun.

“To say the kids were excited and surprised would be an understatement,” said Ashlee Bonnell, Mentoring Coordinator with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “They were jumping up and down, waving and smiling ear to ear.”

The Bearcats players shared their journey as competitive athletes and their commitment to their sport, while the program participants listened intently and asked questions spanning from, “why are you wearing sandals?” to “what is it like to be a Bearcat”. For the 30-minute active session component participants were led through a fun bootcamp by Bearcat Trainer Will Cole.

One of the objectives of the program is to promote physical literacy and show kids that being active can be fun.

“By involving groups like the Bearcats, it demonstrates to the kids involved that being active and setting goals can lead to success,” said Bonnell.

In the weeks to come some of the community Mentors include the Truro Police Service and the Truro Fire Service to talk about safety, and Nutritionist Aiyu Liu who will talk about healthy eating and show the kids how to make energy bites.

Along with encouraging kids to be more active, the program aims to raise their awareness of the different services and supports that are available in the community.

“We wanted the Sneaker Project to make kids feel comfortable talking to adults in authoritative and uniform roles,” said Bonnell. These are safe adults in the community that we want children and youth to know they can approach and confide in, if they need to.”

Laura Tye McPhee, Manager of Health, Fitness and Special Populations at the RECC who is a part of the planning and service delivery of the Sneaker Project is thrilled with the success of the first session.

“The kids were moving, laughing and smiling, so my goal was achieved,” said Laura. “My passion is finding creative ways to engage children and youth to be active and have fun while they’re at it.”

All partners would love to see the program expand into other schools in the future.

“If the rest of the sessions go as well as the first here at Harmony Heights, we are hopeful to launch the Sneaker Project at other schools in Colchester/East Hants who could also benefit,” said Bonnell.