Apparently, Santa Claus does keep his workshop open 365 days of the year.
On Tuesday, April 23, the football program at Edward Milne community school (EMCS) received cheque for $10,000 from CFAX’s Santa’s Anonymous.
Their application “was for a purpose,” said Richard Whiteley, the instigator behind the grant application. Introduced in the mandate of their submission, that purpose was “to offer safe football at Edward Milne community school for student athletes aged 13-17 years old regardless of monetary means.”
“I work for CFAX, and I approached CFAX’s Santa Anonymous about doing this, and Christine Hewitt, who is the woman in charge of running things there helped me put together the grant application,” says Whiteley. Hewitt is the Executive Director of the C-FAX Santa’s Anonymous Society. The grant was submitted by Daniel Shields, another football coach with the program.
“At the football program last year, we had 50 helmets,” explains Whiteley. “Football helmets have to be refurbished every five years, and half the helmets we had had to be sent in for refurbishing. They’re only allowed to be in use for 10 years, and they were nine years old. Twenty-three of the 24 helmets came back, but we could only use them for one more year, so we needed to find a way to generate that kind of cash.”
When they refurbish helmets, they put them through a process to make sure they are still safe. Refurbished or not, helmets can not be older than 10 years old.
Helmets do cost a fair bit of money. According to their grant application, the estimated cost per helmet was $250. Thirty helmets would cost $7,500 with another $500 set aside for shipping. The additional $2,000 will go towards subsidizing the registration for the players.
“Sooke is a community that is not affluent by any stretch of the imagination,” says Whiteley. As outlined in the grant application, in previous years “our teams had low numbers due to the cost of football in general. We need to charge a registration fee so that we can afford to travel to other schools, carry the needed insurance for the players and coaches, for gear replacement, school fees, and our end of season banquet. Last season only 60 per cent of the players paid for their football, the rest either played free or we found a few sponsors for them.”
A low number of players means more time in the field. And more time in the field increases the possibility of injuries.
“Due to the increase in awareness in concussions, I started to do some research,” explained Whiteley. “And that was the basis of the grant application and my presentation.”
The application goals were straight forward: “try to remove as many chances of concussions happening as possible for all players. To do this, we need to have better practice plans (where and how we practice), better training for coaches (how to recognize a concussion and treatment) and better equipment to help decrease the likely hood of a concussion (better helmets for the players).”
“The helmets that we had were not top end,” said Whiteley. They wanted to maximize the protection they could offer to their players. “Last year, we had a number of concussions, and I want to try and decrease that.”
Whiteley continues, “The more awareness parents have about concussions, the better.”
According to the Canadian based not-for-profit website, StopConcussions.com, “Brain injury from trauma is the greatest killer under the age of 45; the greatest cause of disability under 44; and kills more children under 20 than all other causes combined.” StopConcussions.com reports that 10 per cent of athletes in contact sports experience a concussion, and almost one-fifth of these go unreported.
As daunting as those stats might sound, there is also a huge reward for the players who enrol with the EMCS football program. Besides fitness and basic team-building skills, players also derive valuable life-skills.
“The great things about the EMCS Wolverines Football program are playing as a team member, road trips, encouraging each other to be successful, great coaches who challenge us to be the best we can be,” writes Jordan Schutt, a Grade nine student in a testimonial. “I look forward to spending my remaining high school years playing for the EMCS Wolverines, growing as a player and playing as a member of this awesome program.”
The grant from the C-FAX’s Santas Anonymous Society will allow students enrolled in the EMCS football program to continue developing life-long skills, both interpersonal and fitness related, while maximizing their safety.