Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

School, hockey are a good fit

Jets Academy benefits kids who might not be able to play

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The power of sport, celebrated with this Saturday's Sports Day in Canada, is what the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy continues to be up to, lockout or not.

Officials from ParticipAction and True Sport made an appearance in Winnipeg Wednesday to help highlight one of the province's best programs when it comes to participation.

The Jets Hockey Academy, an undertaking of the True North Foundation, is actually going into its sixth year of trying to expose hockey to underserved kids who may not otherwise have a chance to play the sport.

Formerly operated under the Manitoba Moose franchise, the program is being expanded in 2012-13 from 150 kids to more than 400.

"We talked with all the schools and administrations involved and one of the big things that we found was attendance rates were well up, well over 90 per cent in all the schools we were involved with," said Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation executive director Dwayne Green.

"Probably one of the biggest impacts was those administrations indicating that families were more engaged in coming to parent-teacher interviews or coming to watch kids play.

"When you can engage families and schools and the greater community with the positive effects on youth... that's what we're doing it for."

Classes of Grade 2s, 3s and 6s were on the ice at the MTS Iceplex for a morning session on Wednesday.

"To be able to tie it to them attending school is going to have a positive influence on the kids of the province and future leaders of the province," Green said.

"It's rewarding. When you have 50 students out here and 75 per cent of them haven't put on gear before, it's organized chaos but it's beautiful to see them participate."

Incentives are part of the part of the approach.

Green said that it's the intent of the program, "to choose kids who might have the aptitude to excel in such a program, that they attend school and they're getting their homework done and during the day they'd have the opportunity to participate in this program."

Green was also happy to reveal that new sponsors have caught the fever of the academy's work, in part through the community's Jets fever.

Joining existing sponsor E.H. Price are Princess Auto, Birchwood Automotive, True North Sports & Entertainment, Maple Leaf Construction and Investors Group, all involved in the "adopt a class" program that sees sponsors donate staff hours to assist the program.

Sports Day in Canada is the annual awareness effort to illustrate how sport can transform lives for all Canadians.

ParticipAction's recent survey showed that while nearly all Canadians recognize the value of sport, only 37 per cent say they participate at least once a week.

Only seven per cent of kids are considered active enough to meet Canada's physical activity guidelines.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 0


Updated on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:41 AM CDT: corrects typo

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