While baseball is undeniably synonymous with the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada, for many children and youth around the country, baseball has also become synonymous with opportunity – with the chance at an equal playing field. Jays Care Foundation makes that possible.
Founded in 1992 and situated at none other than 1 Blue Jays Way inside the Toronto Entertainment District, Jays Care Foundation is leveraging baseball as a tool to teach children and youth the valuable skills of teamwork, leadership and resiliency. It recognizes the opportunity gap existing for children and youth across Canada and aims to rectify it.
This is no easy feat.
Jays Care Foundation started as a granting charity, providing funding for baseball fields and programs in communities throughout the country, but has since shifted towards facilitating its own programs.
With spring training upon us and as we long for hot summer days at the Rogers Centre with the dome down, we were intrigued by what Jays Care Foundation gets up to year-round.
Jays Care initiatives target four core demographics it believes are disadvantaged due to the opportunity gap: girls, Indigenous children & youth, children & youth living with disabilities and below the poverty line.
How do you begin to tackle these issues, you ask? Through Jays Care’s work with community members, assisting with funding and providing resources, these marginalized groups are introduced to the magical language of baseball.
The programs – some in partnership with Plan International Canada and Toronto Community Housing – establish support groups, promote the health and well-being of children & youth, and aim to improve equity and accessibility.
Go Jays Care go!
There is at least one program dedicated to the needs of each target demographic, specifically designed to impower them. However, Jays Care always leaves room for communities to further develop them to better suit their own goals.
Girls at Bat is a program by young women for young women and does not necessarily have to be baseball-centric – although, why not? While it provides an introduction to baseball, it also brings youth to retreats, where they listen to motivational speakers and learn about suicide, drug and alcohol prevention.
Rookie League, devoted to engaging Indigenous children & youth, does not work on a wins and losses system. Instead, points are given towards community engagement milestones. It is designed to also strengthen the relationship within the community.
Challenger Baseball pairs participants – children and youth with cognitive and/or physical disabilities – with a volunteer using the ‘buddy system’. Players and their buddies participate in various drills before gathering for collective games together.
Home Run Scholar provides participants with homework time, two meals, and a full hour of sport and recreational activities. Through following a different theme or challenge each month, the program helps inspire new skills and creative activities.
What a catch!
The organization works in all 10 provinces and two territories, impacting over 65,000 children and youth annually. Since 2004, Jays Care Foundation has granted over $8.2 million across Canada in infrastructure investments through the Field of Dreams program. In 2017 alone, Jays Care Foundation invested $5.2 million in charitable support, sports programming development, and creating safe spaces.
Jays Care Foundation betters the lives of thousands of children every day, working to overcome the opportunity gap created by inequality. If you’re interested in Jays Care Foundation’s initiatives, don’t hesitate to reach out, because there are a ton of ways to get involved. Whether it’s by becoming a partner, making a donation, attending any of the Jays Care events, or even donating your used car – the opportunities are endless!
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