When their seasons start up again, Ucluelet Elementary School’s athletes will be sporting some slick new duds thanks to the generosity of their local business community.
Packages containing 50 brand new, battle red UES Warriors jerseys arrived on the school’s doorstep earlier this month.
Ucluetian mom Carrie Midlane said the school’s old sports jerseys had been handed down a few too many times and were starting to look run-down and worn out. She added there were often not enough jerseys to go around for team sports, meaning kids were taking off their jerseys and handing them to other players as they were subbed in and out.
Midlane reached out to the community for potential fundraising efforts late last year and was thrilled to find a team of businesses eager to lend a hand, including Cedar Grill, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club, Relic Surf Shop, Heartwood Kitchen, Gray Whale Deli, Subtidal Adventures, Neptune Ice and Icon Developments.
“We were so happy with the outpouring of support from local businesses. Without their amazing support this would not have been possible to make happen for the students,” Midlane told the Westerly News. “This is another example of how our local businesses are at the heart of this community and step up to help out where the need arises and funding may not otherwise be possible…Thank you again to all of our local sponsors who made this happen for our current and future elementary students.”
Heartwood Kitchen co-owner Ian Riddick said he was happy to see Midlane’s pitch for support and said the need for new jerseys was made apparent as the UES basketball team began travelling more to play out of town teams last year.
“We ended up getting some quotes and finding out we could really go for it if we could put some more money together, so I just challenged some businesses to step up and we got this awesome group of local businesses,” he said. “It was around $3,000 we put together and we were able to purchase 50 brand new jerseys that will last a generation of kids at that school.”
He added that the financial commitments were made around January, prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all kind of went out of business and hid in our basements for a while and the project was kind of forgotten about,” he said.
As the town’s tourism economy shut down causing economic turmoil, Riddick said he reached out to the sponsors to make sure anyone who could no longer afford to donate didn’t feel pressured to.
“I said, ‘I know it’s been tough. If you’re still in, great, if not, we’ll figure it out’ and every single person that committed to be in at the inception of the idea was 100 per cent onboard. Nobody hesitated,” he said. “Nobody blinked an eye and that was not surprising to me…I’ve seen the best in this town.”
He said the community understands that living in a small community means stepping up when you’re needed.
“This area just attracts a lot of likeminded people so that’s a huge part of the deal. We’re here because we care about each other and we want that small town vibe where you’re kind of keeping an eye on each other and we want our kids to have the best possible chance, that’s the bottom line for me,” he said.
“The parents are engaged to do whatever it takes to give them as many opportunities as we possibly can.”
He hopes the new jerseys will lead to a boost of confidence and enthusiasm.
“When that first group goes out there the next time they get to play any sort of team sports, I think they’re going to feel really good about it. They’re going to look great and if that gets a little bit more interest into team sports or just the sports program in general, that’s a really great thing,” he said.