The first program to start up in 2023 was Sole Sisters. Thirty-three ladies explored the Springwood Trails system on January 11th. This winter, the group has tackled local favourites, such as the Qualicum Beach Museum Trail and Moorecroft, and they visited two trails that were new to the group: “Bowser Tower Trail” and “Wildwood Park and Beyond.” The leaders are very diligent about doing a prewalk each week to check the trails for fallen trees, trail closures, and other unexpected obstacles. With a heavy snowfall in February, these prewalks were particularly important in determining if the trails were in good condition. On average, there have been twenty-two walkers each week.
The Recreation Team began 2023 on a quest to find a new facilitator for Tuesday-night basketball. Isabella Loberiza, who used to be a member of the Thursday-night program, stepped up to volunteer to instruct. For the first segment of the program, Isabella divides the gym in half and coordinates a scrimmage on one half, while she teaches ball-handling and shooting drills on the other half of the gym for participants who are eager to build their technical skills. The second portion of the evening is for scrimmages that use the entire gym. Isabella works hard to ensure that the youth demonstrate excellent sportsmanship, pass the ball, and get equal time on the court.
The first night of the program, twelve youth dropped in, and numbers have continued to grow throughout the nine-week season. There is a group of six youth who carpool from Meadowood, and this season has welcomed more girls that previous years. By the end of March, Isabella is welcoming approximately twenty youth each week, with many of the same youth returning.
Thursday-night basketball continues to be one of ACRA’s most popular programs. The class maximum is twenty, and the program has been full every week that it has been offered. Often, there is a waitlist with two to four people on it, and weekly registration fills within 48 hours of opening.
Volunteer facilitator Michael Briones works hard to manage this very passionate group of youth. One participant commented that he loves the program because everyone is friendly, the program is free, and it’s an easy way to pick up a game when he’s available. Nine sessions were offered in the Winter Basketball season.
On February 20th, ACRA partnered up with the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association to celebrate the 11th annual Coombs Family Day. This year’s 4-H animal is the pig, so many of the children’s games and activities were focused around this animal, including the cookie-decorating, educational scavenger hunt, and paper crafts.
2023 had a record-breaking attendance with approximately 3,200 people. This year’s festivities were particularly well-attended by children. The gym housed a wide variety of children’s activities from organizations such as Arrowsmith Naturalists, Parksville & District Rock & Gem Club, Take-Off Adventure Rentals, and 4-H Poultry.
The Arrowsmith Hall hosted a wide range of educational displays from groups such as Coombs History, Brant Wildlife Festival, Bradley Spinners, Silver Spur, and Oceanside Hive Beekeeping. The Big Red Barn was full of equine displays, and the parking lot featured emergency vehicle displays. This event’s tremendous popularity is largely attributed to the fact that it is a 100% free event. The event requires a tremendous volunteer effort to operate the concession, manage the parking lot, facilitate children’s activities, and manage each exhibit. The Recreation Team is grateful that even after a two-year hiatus, local organizations and community people were still keen to devote their time to keeping this free, community event alive.
Surprisingly, there were leftover concession items. Leftover hot dogs were donated to the Errington Elementary School and used to support their March fundraiser.
Every second Thursday, the Beyond Beginner Marimba class meets to rehearse for ninety minutes. This four-person group has been playing together for a few years and is committed to maintaining their skills through regular practices while their instructor is on maternity leave. The group members enjoy the bi-weekly opportunity to socialize and fill the Hall with the uplifting sounds of marimba magic.
A six-week Gym Play program taught by Keenan Bevan and student leader Caelyn Corcionne was scheduled from February 3th to March 10th. Both the Preschool program and the Child’s Play program were full with thirteen children. Several of the children were returning students who had really enjoyed the fall session. Unfortunately, two of the six classes had to be cancelled due to instructor illness.
The Preschool group focused on building positive experiences in a gym setting. They danced and wiggled to sing-a-long action songs, played an assortment of movement games, and delighted in cooperative parachute games.
The Child’s play group had the opportunity to sample a variety of sports and activities including basketball, floor hockey, and skipping. They also engaged in throwing challenges and tag games.
Sixteen drumming enthusiasts signed up for Monica Hofer’s Intermediate African Hand Drumming class at Errington Hall, and seven signed up for Intermediate Dun Drumming. These programs explore complex rhythms, and many of the drummers have participated for a few years, which has resulted in the formation of many friendship. In the winter session, two new drummers joined the group, and both have also signed up for the spring session as well. Between January 24th and March 28th, nine sessions were offered.
Recreation Coordinator Kristine Stephenson had the pleasure of attending a workshop about volunteering at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. The speaker shared tips for retaining and recruiting volunteers through good training and management practices. Kristine particularly enjoyed the activity where participants brainstormed ways to thank volunteers. Knowing that there is a volunteer shortage in our community, expressing gratitude for current volunteers seems more important than ever.
In February, Recreation Coordinator Keenan Bevan left the Arrowsmith Recreation Team. He has joined the team at SOS to work with their Child and Youth Team. Tracy Cargo-White will be returning from her maternity leave on June 1st. To bridge the gap between Keenan’s departure and Tracy’s return, Kristine Stephenson will be increasing the hours she works, and John Stephenson has joined the Recreation Team and will be assisting on a very part-time basis until June 1st.
The recreation coordinators attended many community meetings including:
Recreation Coordinator Kristine Stephenson was asked to present at an Errington Hall Board meeting to discuss what services ACRA offers and share insights into how ACRA offers and manages its programs. Some members of the Errington Hall Board had not worked closely with ACRA before and appreciated an opportunity to learn more.
The recreation coordinators are responsible for maintaining the ACRA website and events calendar, Facebook page, and Instagram account as well as promotion for programs. The recreation coordinators receive and reply to phone calls and emails regularly and manage all of the registration for programs independently.
ACRA manages a community lending cupboard where other non-profit organizations and hobbyist groups can borrow equipment on a by-donation basis.
Allison Shaw continues to use the ukuleles and a band-in-a-box for the children’s music programs at Errington War Memorial Hall. The programs started in October and will continue into the spring.
Coombs Farmers Institute borrowed ACRA’s traffic directing equipment for their 3rd Annual Seedy Sunday event which happened on March 26th and was of much interest to local gardeners eager to grow their own food.
ACRA applied to the Mid Island Co-op Community Support Fund to help with the offering of the 32nd annual Coombs Community Picnic. The Picnic is an entirely free event, and grant funding supports the purchase of napkins, hamburger sleeves, propane, and other necessities.