A successful grant program aimed at increasing healthy living across Whitecourt is winding down this month as town leadership look ahead to more recreation opportunities over the spring and summer.
The Access to Fit program started in October with online and in-person programming as part of nearly $5,000 in funding from the Communities ChooseWell RECreate grant.
Whitecourt was among eight other communities across the province chosen as recipients of the grant to help bolster, increase and create new recreation opportunities for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Whitecourt, the program was aimed at increasing access to recreation opportunities to residents with low income and those staying isolation. The program had two components: an online fitness and nutrition tracker through the Allen & Jean Millar Centre’s Facebook Page and in-person programs with various agencies from across town.
“We partnered with agencies that work with families and individuals who are lower income and may not be able to afford a pass to our recreation centre to get referrals and get individuals in the door while we were open,” Emma Harper, the Town’s recreation coordinator said.
After the centre, and many in-person activities, were forced to close or halt in December, Harper said one of the community partners suggested connecting with Eastlink Park.
Part of the funding was then used to purchased discounted discover passes for lessons and rentals for residents to try skiing and snowboarding at the local hill.
Harper said that in partnering with the ECHO Society, the funding was also used to arrange a group ski lesson for persons with disabilities on Friday, March 19.
“It’s become very apparent over COVID just how important recreation is for physical and mental health and just so many different components of well-being,” Harper said. “I think this project was something that we were able to do so that we could help families, individuals and groups in our community that might be having a harder time with it, especially with the other impacts COVID has had on people’s finances.”
Harper added being able to increase recreation opportunities for people to try something new is helping to break the cycle of boredom and frustration over ongoing community health restrictions.
“There’s not a lot of options right now so being able to provide those options to people I think is really important. Being able to switch and do something that is still available like skiing and snowboarding which is such an awesome, but at the same time a cost-prohibitive activity for a lot of people has been really neat.”
The Town is gearing up for their spring and summer programming with a focus on youth in the community ahead of the upcoming spring break.
For more information on free town programming and activities, visit their website.