Contributed photo                                 Jacob Brauckmann referees a basketball game during a recent Sport Start night at Jessie Lee Elementary. Brauckmann started with the program in 2013.

Contributed photo Jacob Brauckmann referees a basketball game during a recent Sport Start night at Jessie Lee Elementary. Brauckmann started with the program in 2013.

‘Half friendship, half sport’ program scoring among aspiring athletes

South Surrey Sport Start crosses five-year start line

A volunteer-run program that opens fun, active doors to youth with special needs is marking its fifth year in South Surrey, and organizers say space has opened up for even more athletes to give basketball, soccer and floor hockey a try.

The Special Olympics Sport Start program is a combination of “entry level and skill development – half friendship, half sport,” said Susan de Wit, a South Surrey resident who launched the program with her husband, Bob, in the fall of 2013.

“We’re kind of the entry point (for Special Olympics), for a lot of kids.”

Sport Start runs every Thursday night from October to May – with social events held a few times per season – in the gymnasium of Jessie Lee Elementary. It’s for athletes aged 12 to 18 years old to participate in an environment that is designed to be fun, safe and inclusive.

It’s for “kids with special needs who are looking to add some great friends into their life while being a bit more active,” de Wit said.

“It really is a healing place where kids can really just let their hair down and have a good time.”

De Wit said many participants – there are currently around 12 regulars – have been with the program since it started, some have aged out and others have gone on to pursue other sports.

One athlete who started in 2013, Jacob Brauckmann – drawn by the opportunity it offered him to pursue his passion for basketball – is now a volunteer referee and plays on a more competitive Special Olympics basketball team.

“We are really proud of him,” de Wit said.

Another success has come through involving student coaches from Southridge School. The coaches are on the floor with the athletes every week, both mentoring and playing as peers, de Wit said.

“It’s become kind of a young leaders program as well,” she said.

Claire Friesen, in Grade 12 at Southridge, said she started as a peer coach a year ago. She described it as “so fulfilling.”

“I love getting to see each athlete improve throughout the year, and become a more confident person on and off the court,” Friesen, 18, told Peace Arch News by email Friday.

“I have become a better person since I started volunteering. I am so happy I joined and it is always such a highlight of my week!”

De Wit said she often fields calls from parents who are interested in getting their kids involved in Sport Start, but who at the same time stress that their child doesn’t really play sports, or that it’s hard to get them active.

She said her emphasis is always on simply giving it a shot.

“I encourage them to just lace up their sneakers and just come on out and try it,” she said.

“It’s not uncommon for kids to come into our program and sit on the bench (at first), or circle around the outside.

“Pretty soon, they’re in there high-fiving. It doesn’t take them long.”

For more information, contact de Wit at susan.richardsdewit@gmail.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating serious collision in Surrey

Incident happend May 6 at King George Boulevard and 128th Street

Surrey Fire Service firefighters quickly contained a fire on 75A Avenue. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Surrey firefighters extinguish second house fire in Newton

Second fire incident reported in Newton Sunday morning

Surrey RCMP are investigating two ‘suspicious’ fires in Newton Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
IHIT investigating after man killed in Burnaby shooting

Police looking for more information on fatal shooting

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read