After-School Matters – Letting Kids be Kids

April 12, 2023 | By Will Foran

Do you remember your first time riding a sled down a steep hill as a kid? Or the first time you went on a field trip with friends and classmates? What about the first time you donned a pair of ice skates and stepped on a slippery ice rink with your friends? Experiences like this form some of our fondest memories of growing up. To achieve equity in Niagara, all kids need a chance to share these experiences with their peers – to be all that they can be.

The After-School Matters program is a network of free after-school programs delivering quality educational, recreational and leisure activities designed to help mitigate the effects of low-income for hundreds of families. With the help of local partners, The RAFT, YMCA and Learning Disabilities Association of Niagara, available programs throughout Niagara make an impact on youth and teens in Niagara who could benefit from friendly interactions with like-minded young people. For many, arriving at After School Matters following a typical school day allows them access to friendly staff members and a healthy snack. They can access homework help or fun activities that allow them to get active and participate in games with friends.

Just last month, dozens of volunteers from Brock University’s Men’s Hockey Team, Niagara Regional Police Service and the Niagara IceDogs came together to help young After-School Matters participants on a skating field trip to Ridley College. There, the children had help as they tied up their skates and learned how to ice skate with the help of some skilled hockey players.

To say the kids enjoyed themselves would be an understatement. While there were slips and falls aplenty, no crying or complaining could be heard from these children. They were thrilled to be experiencing something that for many of them only comes once a year. Being present to hear their laughter and joy fill the arena was heartwarming. Our local ice hockey volunteers were kind and considerate as they shared their knowledge on how to skate – or just helped drag a group of young ones along the ice as they held onto a hockey net. Allowing kids to have fun, learn and grow outside of the classroom is the ultimate goal of the After-School Matters program.

We are proudly expanding this program throughout other areas of the Niagara region, with our fifth program site opening in Fort Erie earlier this year. If you want to be a part of the greater change in Niagara, the one that’s making a difference in the lives of hundreds of youths and teens each year, supporting United Way Niagara is just one way to do so. For those interested in registering their child for the After-School Matters program, please contact Melissa Debruin, Manager – After School Programs with The RAFT at [email protected] or 905 984 4365 Ext 219.