HCA programs offer fun, free physical activity to neighbourhood youth

by Madeline Kotzer

DSC_4567.jpgThe school day finished hours ago, but a hallway at Regina’s Thomson Community School is packed with loud, laughing, excited kids.

The pack of 30 is waiting. Soon the younger half of them will head to the pool, the older half to a gymnastics warehouse filled with trampolines and pools of soft foam.

DSC_4580.jpg“They love to play,” said Nofa Slaeman (pictured left, in the striped shirt). “All we do is create positive experiences and environments for them and they make the decisions… positive activities so they’re not out on the street.”

For Slaeman, Program Coordinator for Girls On The Move and Boys Movin’ On Up, positivity is central to the work she does on Tuesday nights.

Since 2004, the Heritage Community Association programs have provided neighbourhood youth ages 9 to 14 a safe, fun, free way to spend an evening.

DSC_4596.jpgNevah McNabb, 11, comes back each year.

“It’s fun,” said McNabb (pictured left, in the blue t-shirt).

This year, the two programs were set to accommodate 40 youth. However, 45 registered and Slaeman said they still had to turn five to six kids away.

“A good day is when kids are having fun and they’re safe,” said Slaeman.

She explained that beyond the benefits of physical activity, like swimming or bowling, the programs provide a safe haven for disadvantaged young people.

“They could be anywhere else but instead they’re here, having fun, interacting with each other and positive adults,” Slaeman said, watching a group of teen boys boisterously file onto gymnastics mats.

Slaeman and a team of six youth workers spend time with the kids each week from September to December. The Heritage Community Association is hoping to expand the programs to cover a full year.

The Girls On The Move and Boys Movin’ On Up programs are funded by Sask Lotteries. For more information contact heritage.director@sasktel.net.