Tri-City community groups go for big bucks

Left, two young gymnasts with Omega Gymnastics, which wants to operate a Tumblebus locally. Right, Mountain View elementary school parent Michelle Busch with Alina Pashanava and Maya Kadach. - LEFT: SUBMITTED PHOTO; RIGHT: JENNIFER GAUTHIER/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Left, two young gymnasts with Omega Gymnastics, which wants to operate a Tumblebus locally. Right, Mountain View elementary school parent Michelle Busch with Alina Pashanava and Maya Kadach.

A playground in an immigrant community, a youth program where kids feel supported and a mobile gymnastics bus to promote healthy movement are three ideas chasing funding in a national competition.

Three Tri-Cities groups are seeking grants from the Aviva Community Fund and one thing can pave the way to success: your vote.

For the third consecutive year, Aviva, a Canadian insurance company, is offering up to $1 million in grants to community projects that receive the highest number of votes on their website.

In the running for this first qualifying round are Coquitlam’s Omega Gymnastics Academy, which wants to bring the Tumblebus program to the Tri-Cities; the Port Coquitlam Youth Society, which aims to establish a Challenge program for youth; and Coquitlam’s Mountain View elementary school, which wants to expand and update its well-worn playground.

For each, a grant of $50,000 or more is key to getting these projects off the ground.

Bobbie Symes, vice-president of the parent-run Omega Gymnastics Academy, said the Tumblebus would enable her group to expand its outreach to schools and daycares. Omega is already offering programs to these groups but the Tumblebus would enable the group to get out even more and offer programs for free for the first year.

She said the Tumblebus is a full-sized school bus converted into a gym with bars, beam, vault, climbing wall, trampoline, rings, zip line and monkey bars and costs $75,000 to purchase. If her group can get enough votes, it can acquire the bus as well as pay for staff to bring it to different areas of the city.

“This is a great opportunity for us to share our passion and commitment for this sport with others who may not otherwise be able to,” Symes said.

“Think of the number of daycares that are out there. We could roll up to them and kids could learn about gymnastics and get physical activities with certified coaches,” she said, noting that gym sports are great for improving children’s strength, flexibility and balance.

At Mountain View elementary, the school’s parent advisory council is seeking support for a grant to update its tired and old playground equipment. The group would like to expand the playground as well to appeal to all ages and groups in the growing multi-cultural enclave.

Michelle Busch, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 10 years, said improving the playground would help build the community and encourage children to play outdoors instead of on their computers at home. It’s also a way to make new immigrants feel at home and help them get to know their neighbours.

“Here there’s really diverse... families. There’s lots of single parents raising children here, low cost-housing developments and everything else in-between,” Busch said. “The kids really feel ownership towards the school and that playground.

“I think that sense of community is a really big deal,” said Busch, who hopes to get a lot of votes for the program on the Aviva website. “Everyone’s trying to help as much as they can, using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.”

Also in the running for an Aviva community grant is the Challenge Day program proposed by the Port Coquitlam Youth Society, which would provide workshops for youth to promote compassion, acceptance and respect and work to end bullying.

For more information about these projects and to vote, visit Voting for Round 1 ends Oct. 19.

– with files from Jennifer Gauthier

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