Win 4 Kids Finalist: Spence Neighbourhood Association

$5,000 Winner

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Winnipeg’s Spence Neighbourhood is characterized by high numbers of rental properties and rooming houses, home to many families living on lower than average income. Building Belonging is a free after-school and summer program established in 2002 for children ages 6-12 from this area of the city. Building Belonging runs every weekday out of a local recreation centre.

Building Belonging partners with local organizations, businesses and recreational instructors to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle while providing opportunities for participants to try new sports and explore new activities. Children get moving by swimming, cross-country skiing, dance, yoga, skateboarding and a variety of other sports and activities. Approximately 40-60 Spence neighbourhood children attend this program each day with pickup from two local schools and a safe walk/drive home.

Since its inception 14 years ago, Building Belonging has continued to expand to meet the community’s needs. From increasing program frequency, adding a second coordinator, broadening the age range, increasing the variety of activities and adding group outings to the schedule, the program has become a community staple. Spence Neighbourhood Association provides more than recreational programming; it provides mentorship and a safe environment where inner-city children gain a sense of ownership and belonging within their community.

The funds from Win 4 Kids would go towards program costs including admission fees and equipment rental and honoraria for guest instructors who come to teach participants about specific sports and fitness activities.


Imagine learning to swim in a wading pool. That's the reality for most of the children that participate in the Building Belonging program. These kids don't go to the lake on the weekends, they aren't enrolled in swimming classes at a local pool. For many of the kids, their first visit to a swimming pool is with Building Belonging. It is so rewarding to see kids go from being scared to get into the water to waiting in anticipation for the next swimming outing. Equally rewarding is when a child's swimming skills evolve to the point of being able to swim in the deep end of the pool. It is so much fun cheering them on as they ascend the highest diving board! Having the opportunity to regularly practice swimming is so important in building their confidence and skills, and wouldn't be possible without Building Belonging. Vote for Building Belonging so more kids can get to the deep end of the pool!
Susan, volunteer, Spence neighbourhood resident



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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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