Wearing an oversized white hockey helmet with a face cage, a pink fleece jacket and black tutu, six-year-old Calli Rae looked perfectly at home on the ice while she twirled gracefully on the ice at the SEAPARC arena last Tuesday.
With instructors recognizing skating talent far beyond her years, Calli — who is in the Sooke Skating Club CanSkate program — might not have had a chance to grow that talent if it wasn’t for KidSport, a non-profit Canadian organization that provides grant money to kids to play sports.
“I was concerned about the cost (of CanSkate) because it’s more money than SEAPARC (skating lessons), and someone suggested the KidSport program,” said Nicole Rae, Calli’s stay-at-home mother.
Calli was enrolled in regular lessons about two years ago at the arena when she was discovered by staff. Nicole found the Victoria branch of the organization online, printed off, filled out and sent off an application, and within a few short weeks she was approved. Now the short skater takes part in classes with her peers who are 10 to 12 years old.
“She’s the littlest one out there pretty much. I thought, she’s going to get swamped with all these big kids,” said Nicole, laughing.
“I asked if there were lessons for her age level but at her skating level, (the instructor) said no, we’ve never had anyone like Calli before.”
Nicole said the application process was painless and short, asking standard questions like where you live, which sport you’re going to join and what your family income is. Also, a community member has to “vouch” for you — Nicole asked a friend who works with the Sooke Family Resource Society.
“They just sent me a cheque in the mail saying you’ve been approved, here’s your cheque, here’s the amount and I thought ‘thank goodness!’” She said. “They will cover up to $250 per season and so they covered $250 for me which was huge, because we couldn’t afford it.”
Nicole’s husband works part-time as a general maintenance handyman. They have another toddler, Mason, who’s two and has “the build of a hockey player” will probably join her sister in organized sport in a couple years. The family is going to be at the arena on Nov. 24 to support the skating club’s Skate-A-Thon fundraiser, where Calli and other members will be skating laps for donation starting at 5:45 p.m.