Youth programs hope for quick end to latest round of COVID restrictions as pandemic struggles continue

Faced with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, some programs for young people in PEI prepare for the financial impact of ongoing health restrictions.

Currently, indoor sports and recreation are suspended for Island children under 12, practice has been suspended for those over 12, and fitness facilities are operating at 50% capacity.

This means that things like kids’ dance lessons, hockey, gymnastics and swimming lessons have ceased for now.

“Our income comes from running programs, so if we don’t run programs we don’t get any and that makes it harder to pay our staff,” said Hannah Gehrels, Wild Child’s projects coordinator, a outdoor program. connect children with nature.

“Two weeks is good, but if it spans most of the winter, you know, I’m worried about the impact that will have. “

“Very stressful, very tight”

Gehrels said funding from places such as the United Way and the Wildlife Conservation Fund has helped Wild Child operate throughout the pandemic.

But, she said, these organizations have provided this money on the basis of promised deliverables and with no ongoing programs, those promises become harder to keep.

“We bonded with our families in the Wild Child community and heard about their struggles,” says Hannah Gehrels. “Getting your kids out as much as possible and going outside is a good thing to do during this time.” (Brian Higgins / CBC)

“It makes things very stressful, very tight and more difficult as we approach 2022,” she said. “I think we’re in the same boat as a lot of people. As you know, we’re all doing our best.”

Gehrels is not alone, PEI Taekwondo has also temporarily closed its doors.

“We’re at a standstill right now,” said owner Mike Ives.

“We want the children to be safe. A lot of (…) the students we teach are children under the age of 12. So with them getting vaccinated, this is not necessarily the right place. for them.”

Ives said that while financially he doesn’t want to see the facility shut down for too long, it’s “more important right now to be safe, so everything else has to be really secondary.”

Hard for families

A number of other local youth-focused businesses have voiced their concerns to CBC News as well, but it’s not just the programs that are affected.

“It’s a really tough situation for a lot of families and our hearts go out to them,” Gehrels said.

“We have ideas for activities on how to get kids outside and be excited to be outdoors on our social media. So just post small videos or resources every day. ”

The co-owner of CrossFit 782 and 782 Athletics says teen classes typically have eight to 12 teenagers participating. Before COVID-19, he says some classrooms could hold around 40 people. (Travis Kingdon / CBC)

Ives saw first-hand how beneficial exercise can be.

In addition to PEI Taekwondo, he is also a part owner of CrossFit 782 and 782 Athletics, which is currently licensed to operate with strict safeguards in place. These include proof of vaccination, 15-minute tampons between classes, staying in a designated area during training, and only allowing people into the building one at a time.

“For some of these kids, sport is very important to them. So they’re missing that outlet right now. And then you can’t underestimate the mental health aspect of it,” he said. .

“Having an outlet for them is super important.”

“Always try to understand the situation”

Since the start of the pandemic, Ives has said his Crossfit memberships have doubled – a sigh of relief as spending has also jumped.

“A lot of these kids are away because they are currently playing a lot of their sports. So, you know, our teen class has been very popular with the kids,” he said.

“We’ve had a few people who have suspended their memberships in the meantime simply because Omicron is a bit new and people are still trying to figure out the situation there.”

In the meantime, the two are crossing their fingers that the children can soon resume their old routines in safety.

And with the snow heading for PEI, Gehrels has a few ideas for anyone looking for ways to exercise some energy this weekend.

“If it’s sticky snow, build snow people and build snow forts,” she said.

“After the storm has passed, putting on those snow pants and going out in the snow is wonderful.”

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