Keeping one child active and entertained can often feel like a full-time job, and with extracurricular activities, the costs can add up quickly. Now imagine trying to do it for eight children, ranging in age from two to eighteen. It may seem impossible, but family matriarch Heather has done just that, with the help of Youth+Us partner Creative Kids. This organization supports families with financial barriers to access the life-changing benefits of participating in an arts or cultural activity for their children.
Discovering New Possibilities
In 2015, with five children already and another on the way, Heather wanted to enroll her older children in an activity outside of school – something that would help them learn new skills, discover their heritage, and instill good values such as confidence and determination. But with high costs, extracurriculars seemed out of reach. She couldn’t think of a way to do it with such a large family. Then, a conversation with her sister opened the door to possibilities.
“Back then, our kids hadn’t been involved in any activities, because we simply couldn’t afford them,” Heather recalls. Her husband was still a student at the time, and the family budget was tight. Despite this, she had dreams of putting her kids into Highland Dance classes – something that she has fond memories of watching when she was young. “I was talking to my sister one day because her kids were in Ukrainian dance. She said, ‘There’s this program called Creative Kids,’ and I thought, ‘I’m going to apply for that.’”
She filled out the applications and dropped it off for review. “This was before you could apply online – you had to wait for them to respond by snail mail,” she laughs. But the waiting was worth it. Creative Kids responded with an enthusiastic approval to cover the upcoming year of dance lessons.
Growing Confidence Through Highland Dance
Since then, seven of Heather’s kids – Ianua, Macarius, Philomena, Eulalia, Ignatius, Perpetua, and Anastasia – have entered the Wilson School of Highland Dance in Saskatoon, with some reaching premier competitive levels. At every step, Creative Kids has been there, and the effect on the children has been profound:
“It’s been really lovely to see the kids gain confidence through being able to go on stage and dance in front of people and entertain. They’ve danced for our church community, at Folk Fest, at different dance events throughout the city, and at the Firework Festival. They do competitions as well, and there’s a lot to learn in that – you don’t win all the time. Dancing has really given them that perseverance. The idea that ‘If we don’t do so well now, we keep on working hard toward our goals.’”
It’s become a proud part of the kids’ identities, too, connecting them to their family’s roots while providing an outlet for physical and mental well-being. “There’s Scottish on my husband’s side, so there’s the cultural aspect. And they get that coordination, the athleticism…The kids just really love it. Some really, really, really love it. If they didn’t have it anymore, they would just be crushed, because it’s just brought them so much joy.”
The Impact of Creative Kids
The lessons have also brought out leadership qualities in her kids, which makes Heather incredibly proud to see. “During COVID, they were doing dance online and started up a mentorship program where an older dancer would help a younger dancer. My older kids got to pair up with someone else outside the family and provide mentorship that way, and my younger kids got help from someone more advanced. I have definitely seen, in our own family, how the older kids have helped the younger kids with steps and practice and encouragement.”
Heather attributes all of this to the help and support of Creative Kids over the years. “I actually can’t imagine our lives without dance,” she says, the genuine emotion apparent in her voice. “To anyone with kids who doesn’t have the opportunity to do this, you should know you can qualify for this program. There’s such a big list of things that you could have your kids take part in. It’s been so good for our family, and I’m so grateful to Creative Kids for that.”