With four high-energy kids under age nine and one teenager all under one roof, it’s safe to say that life can be a little chaotic for the McAllisters.
There’s Sean, 9, who dreams of becoming a superstar defenseman like Canuck Alex Burrows, and his sisters, Sabrina, 15, Savannah, 9, and Claire, 3, who are all figure skaters.
Even baby Cora, 1, is a fan of on-ice action.
“This little one adores hockey,” said mom Jennifer. “She loves it. She gets so excited when it comes on. She’ll watch Sean and yells for him. It cracks me up.”
While the love for sport came naturally to all five children, finding the finances to pay for it all is a bit trickier for the McAllisters.
Thankfully, they’ve found help through a program called Jumpstart, offered through Canadian Tire.
In 2004, Jennifer and Ken McAllister – after years of being unable to conceive – began fostering a number of children, and in 2007 brought nine-month-old Savannah home. Shortly after, brother Sean and older-sister Sabrina joined them.
It was during that time that Jennifer and Ken received the shock of their lives when they found out Jennifer was pregnant with Claire.
“We were like, ‘what? How did that happen?,’” Jennifer said, laughing.
Then, as they began the three-year process to make the adoptions of their foster children official, they discovered Jennifer was pregnant with Cora.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Jennifer said.
The only problem with finalizing the adoptions was that the McAllisters would lose the funding they had been receiving as foster parents, making it that much more difficult to pay for all the recreational activities the kids loved so much.
“After we adopted them, we lost quite a bit of funding, so we were trying to figure out how it would work,” Jennifer said. “Because we needed them in sports – for their sanity and for ours – we looked into different programs, and at Canadian Tire they have the Jumpstart logo all over it, so I got the information and went from there.”
Since she first connected with Jumpstart – and with the help of YMCA administrator Sherry Kovach – the McAllisters have received financial support to help pay for sports-related fees.
“It helps significantly, because it’s hard to come up with the money for expensive sports, you know? Hockey and figure-skating, you can’t get around it,” she said.
“We have five kids to feed, so we budget a certain amount for their sports, but it’s so important to have that help.”
Most important of all, the children are happy and staying healthy, she said.
For Sean, who plays for the Ice Hawks, hockey means bonding time with his team-manager father.
“I like to skate on the ice, it’s good exercise for you,” he said of playing the popular sport. “It’s actually kind of an honour.”
The Jumpstart program, which launched in 2005, has given more than 540,000 children across the country the chance to play sports by covering related costs, including registration, equipment and transportation.
In Surrey, the program works closely with members of the YMCA and the school district to identify families who require assistance.
According to David Woven, general manager of the Tong Louie Family YMCA, there are two avenues by which the Jumpstart program connects with those families: either the family approaches the program and applies, or members of the program’s steering committee get in touch directly with the students.
“Through the school district, they are quite easily able to identify children and say this is a child who we think would really benefit by participating in activity or sport and then they work with that family to help them get funding for that activity or sport,” he explained. “I think it gives children the opportunity to participate where they might not otherwise. In the City of Surrey, 70,000 people live below the poverty line.
“So that means that often there are families that are making a choice between activities for their kids or putting food on their table.
“Those are some of the kind of choices that people need to make on a day-to-day basis. So being here with these funds to help those families out, we’re able to make sure that those kids have the opportunity to participate and to join a team, and to learn a sport and to get out and get active.”
For more information about the Jumpstart program, visit www.jumpstart.canadiantire.ca