Island Health has given a $12,000 Community Wellness grant to help children in need of used recreational clothing, runners, and sports equipment so that they may experience the joys of recreational activities. 

Collection bins have been stationed throughout Nanaimo so members of the community may donate sports equipment and clothing for a Swap Meet and Fun Fair that will be held on Saturday, March 21 at VIU. 

“We want to reduce leisure barriers for children and families in Nanaimo,” says Joanne Schroeder, Professor and Chair of the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management program. “Something as simple as a good pair of running shoes or a pair that fits and owning your own basketball can go a long way to encourage children to take part in recreational activities.” 

Shed Your Threads is a communal program campaign that began this event. The engagement is headed by several community leaders, including VIU, School District 68, City of Nanaimo Parks, Recreation and Culture, and Island Health. 

Its initiativeas stated in their media releaseis “based on a circular economy approach that encourages recovery, reuse, recycling, product life extensions, and new business models (e.g., sharing platforms), for more efficient use of goods. Shed Your Threads proposes a change from a consumer model of “take, make, and dispose,” to a more collaborative and sustainable model, in which sharing, swapping, and repairing can give unused items a new purpose.” 

This year the campaign asks people to search their garages and homes for unused soccer balls, basketballs, lacrosse equipment, ice skates, roller skates, baseballs and bats, tennis racquets, rain jackets, runners, soccer cleats, and other kinds of sporting equipment to make available to families in need. 

Mariner athletes and VIU students have also participated in promoting and organizing movement and wellness challenges at community schools for the collection initiative and the Swap Meet and Fun Fair event.  

Two years ago, VIU Nursing, Sport Health and Physical Activity Education (SHAPE), Tourism and Recreation, and Child and Youth Care students joined forces with community partners to develop a recreational program focusing on encouraging youth to become more active and live healthier lifestyles. The Recreation Prescription Project, funded by Island Health, was successfully applied in three elementary schools and involved more than 100 student participants 

Furthermore, VIU students discovered that children were lacking fundamental attire to participate in recreational activities, so a sports clothing donation drive was started by the students. They gathered used running shoes, water resistant-jackets, and sports clothing for the children in an effort to enhance their recreational experience. 

Donation baskets for the Shed Your Threads drive have been set up at local schools, as well as five locations on the VIU Nanaimo campus, and five locations chosen by the City of Nanaimo Parks and Recreation. The gear for the Swap Meet and Fun Fair will be collected and sorted by VIU students on Saturday, March 21 from 9 am – 3 pm at the Windsor Plywood Trades Discovery Center (Bldg. 108 on the VIU Nanaimo campus). Donations can also be brought directly to the Swap Meet. 

“We are really proud to announce there is no cost to get into the event, and there is no cost for the gear,” says Schroeder. “We really want to support the community and level the playing field for youth by sharing, swapping, and trading.”