'A very hard year': St. John's program that funds youth activities in financial jeopardy
R.E.A.L. program seeing funding drop nearly 50 per cent for first time in 15 years
A program that offers St. John's children and youth the chance to join extracurricular activities, even if they can't afford it, is having its own financial problems
Recreation Experiences and Leisure (R.E.A.L.) is a not-for-profit program that supports children of low income families by helping to pay the expenses associated involved in sports, arts and leadership programs.
For the last 15 years, the program has been steadily providing an average of 2,300 placements per year. But this year, that number is expected to only be about 1,700 placements by the end of 2017.
According to Natalie Godden, the manager of Family And Leisure Services with the City of St. John's, the decline is due to a drop in donations from business partners, much like is being seen with most non-profits across the province.
"Funding with the economic downturn just isn't available as readily as it has been in the past," she told the St. John's Morning Show.
It's very, very tough. You build relationships with the family.- Natalie Godden
Helping youth with registration fees, transportation costs and equipment for different activities are just some of the things that R.E.A.L.'s funds go towards. Godden said in some cases, like when the organization helps pay for lifeguard certification, the opportunity may turn into a job for the participants.
R.E.A.L. gets its funding mostly from business partners, in addition to private donations. The City of St. John's provides funding for two full-time staff, part of Godden's salary and administration costs.
The city also provides the group's office space on Crosbie Place, which means all donated money actually goes towards serving the kids in the program.
Godden said this has been a hard year for the program, and that the most difficult part is having to make calls to families to let them know their child won't receive support.
"It's very, very tough. You build relationships with the family," she said.
"We had just recently one of our participants graduate from the program — the program's been in existence for 15 years. So he started out as a small child and graduated from the program."
Godden said after 15 years of steady funding, this year came as a bit of a shock. She knows that other groups are having troubles with financing, but it's still difficult to know there are children out there who simply can't do the things they want because the money isn't available.
"It's very hard, it's a very hard year," Godden said.
With files from the St. John's Morning Show