Living in a small town means Facebook is quite often my first source of local news. That’s how Kids in Motion hit my radar. The idea was born last year when Lani Siminoff and her partner Matt Martin talked about creating an indoor play space. Port McNeill has its share of inclement weather. Rain. Lots of rain. Lani and Matt took the idea to friends and then the whole community. They formed a non-profit society. Fundraisers included: a ladies movie night at Gate House Theatre, a hot dog sale, petting zoo at Orca Fest and a gofundme campaign. In November 2016 Kids in Motion opened their doors and now six months later they’re planning phase two. Matt Miller, who is also Secretary of the society, kindly answered my questions about how it’s all working out and what’s next.
Do you have a strategic plan? What key things are you trying to accomplish?
We want to grow the society such that we can offer programs that fill unmet, or undermet, needs in the community. Currently our main goals are to establish two new programs (in addition to our Play Centre) – the Summer Day Camp as well as the Toy Library & Makerspace. Once the new programs are established, we’ll likely need to enter a phase of consolidation.
The key objective is to make Port McNeill the undisputed best place on the island to raise a family. The single best way, in our view, of improving the health of society is to invest in the lives of children aged 0-6. The literature and experts agree that early intervention and investment in children sets their health trajectory for the rest of their lives.
What are your most urgent needs?
Our most urgent need is cash donations. We have been lucky enough to be the successful applicants for a number of grants, however it took leveraging of donations to get those grants. We are still raising funds for our combination Toy Library & Makerspace.
What do you wish people knew about Kids in Motion?
We believe what we are doing is making, and will continue to make, a big difference in the lives of children and families in Port McNeill. Having said that, we aren’t doing anything that extraordinary, and while it’s taken a lot of work it hasn’t been that difficult to start making our vision a reality. So, there are many people out there who have ideas about what they would like to see done in our community – we want people to know that things are not going to change unless they make that change happen themselves. People say that they don’t have time but I would like to challenge them to reconsider and ask if they really did have the time if they re-prioritized what they do. It’s often over-used, but we really believe in what Margaret Meade said, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.”
What would be the greatest difference in helping Kids in Motion get better at what it does?
More volunteers who can dedicate energy to helping us develop new programs and consolidate our existing ones.
What differentiates Kids in Motion from other kid’s groups?
I think we have more of a focus on being an umbrella organization. What other kid’s group do is great, however they seem to exist in silos from each other. The advantage of being an umbrella organization is that it allows us to start building a brand, which helps with people recognizing us. It also allows us to expand the number of grants we can apply to.
Goals for the next 5 years?
We hope to be a small part of big improvements in health and well being outcomes for children (for example those tracked by the Early Development Instrument). We also hope to be a small part of a big cultural shift in Port McNeill whereby a larger percentage of the population is partaking in healthy activities and getting involved in the community.
Is there a board and/or leadership team?
Yes, we have a Board of Directors which consists of 6 people… we all work and have young families and do our best to volunteer our energy when we have it.
Are you collaborating with other organizations? If so examples. How would you like to enhance these efforts?
We’ve received support from other service organizations, numerous businesses and individuals. We have reached out to other societies such as the North Island Community Services and the CreativeNISS Society to explore ways to collaborate. Our Summer Camp will feature numerous guests such as foresters, biologists, artists, nurses, dietitians, yoga instructer, etc., to help provide an amazing experience of kids. We will also be working with the Vancouver Island Regional Library during the summer as part of our Summer Camp. We’ve talked to the A-Frame church about use of their community garden. We have numerous individuals who will be putting on workshops at our Makerspace. Beyond that, and going forward, we’d love to chat with any individual or group who would be interested in collaborating with us.
How do you express appreciation to your members/supporters?
First of all we offer discounts to our members to help reduce the financial burden as much as possible. We also try to be mindful of how reliant we are on community support – truly, what we offer will live and die depending upon if its something the community supports… so, we try to thank people as much as possible. We thank our volunteers on the facebook page we have set-up for them, we thank and highlight them in our newsletter as much as possible. For our large cash donors we have posted announcements on our facebook page, and have taken out newspaper ads to publicly thank them. In the case of our Play Centre we created a window decal to display the logos of our large corporate donors. We definitely try to give our thanks to supporters, but there is always room to do a better job of that.
Are you happy with the group’s results/stats so far?
We are happy as we feel we’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. As we are talking about shifting culture and health outcomes, we will likely need to wait a few years before we start to get a good picture of the difference we are making. Even then it will be hard to know if outcomes are changing because what we are doing, or because of the cumulative affect of all the changes/interventions that are happening in our town. Having said that, what we do know is that we’ve had well over one thousand children visits to our Play Centre. We’ve had a senior who volunteers with us and has expressed that doing so makes her feel more connected to her community. We’ve had a mother tell us that she feels that because of the Play Centre, her older child is able to be a better big brother to his sister. We’ve had parents and children stay for 3-5 hours at a time at the Play Centre because it’s given them a place they feel they want to be. All of those results are really encouraging for us and help signal that we are on the right path.
Do you issue tax deductible receipts to donors?
Receipts are available upon request, however we are a registered non-profit society, but not a registered charity at this time. That may change in the future, but in the meantime we can not offer tax-deductive receipts to donors in the same way a charity could.
Can you please explain Phase 2 – Makerspace & Toy Library
The combination Toy Library & Makerspace is going to be an all-ages space where people’s imagination and creativity will be fostered. The Toy Library is a repository of toys – children will be able to borrow toys, take them home, play with them, and return them. We believe that this will end up saving families hundreds, and potentially thousands, of dollars over time and will level the playing field for kids of different socio-economic backgrounds.
The Makerspace is a place to make things, invent, create, learn, and share. Makerspaces are relatively new, and most have a focus on exposing people to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Ours will also incorporate the Arts (STEAM). We will have tools such as a 3D printer, robotics, computers, sewing machines, a serger, a silk-screen press, crafting tools, etc. We have lined up numerous locals who will be putting on workshops for how to learn/use these tools and skills. When workshops aren’t running, the space will be available to use the tools and their new found skills.
Grants that are in the works?
We have applied to a number of grants – some which are a bit of a longshot, and others we feel we have a fighting chance to get.
How do you keep your members/supporters up to date?
We have a facebook page which we update regularly, and have a monthly newsletter. The newsletter is posted to our Play Centre window so that it can be read from both the inside and outside, and it is posted to our facebook page (www.facebook.com/pmkidsinmotion). We are also developing a webpage which we hope to have up and running soon.
How can someone get involved?
People can get involved by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sending us a message via Facebook