Katelyn Ross realized two years ago that she wanted to do more to help children through sport.
The Alouette Addictions counsellor met a girl in Grade 11 at a local high school who couldn’t afford to play sports, who couldn’t afford her school band trips, who couldn’t afford vacations with her friends.
The girl worked on weekends to afford what little she could, but her father was an alcoholic and both her mother and step-mother had passed away.
Also, her father’s income made her ineligible for any financial support.
“This young girl made me realize that I really need to start doing more because there are just people out there who just have no resources,” said Ross, recently named Citizen of the Year Under 40 by the Maple Ridge Community Foundation.
So, the mother of two decided to connect with the student’s school and let the administration know that this student needed tickets for her graduation ceremony the following year and funding for her school band supplies and outings.
Then Ross showed the student how to make connections herself and who she needed to reach out to, such as her school counsellor and principal, who helped to have everything covered for her graduation.
This was the kind of need Ross – head coach of the softball academy at Garibaldi secondary and a former university player – saw that first inspired her to help others. During her first year of counselling, she noticed that many children had no access to sports.
“Anytime I asked them about drugs and alcohol and what their outlooks were, none of them involved any sports and most of the time it was because they didn’t have money to be in it or didn’t have the support to get them to and from things.”
Ross bought one girl, about 13 years old, a baseball glove. The girl was socially isolated and rarely left her house because of anxiety. Ross registered her with KidSport, a national not-for-profit organization that provides financial assistance for registration fees and equipment for children 18 and younger.
Ross also got her on a softball team, creating a social network for the girl.
Ross has been playing ball her whole life. She started in T-ball, graduating with the Ridge Meadows Minor Softball Association. And after graduation from Thomas Haney secondary in 2006, she followed her dream to the United States on softball scholarships, playing two years with Kansas Community College, then for Northeastern Oklahoma State University.
She practiced university ball three hours every weekday, then played double-headers and tournaments every weekend.
Ross graduated on the president’s list with a degree in psychology before returning home to a career as a drug and alcohol counsellor for Alouette Addictions.
She also returned to become the head coach for the Ridge under-10 mite select softball program.
Then she was nominated for Citizen of the Year Under 40 by Lisa Collins, whose daughter Ross coaches in the academy.
Earlier this year, Ross and Team Canada softball player Larissa Franklin beat the Guinness World Record for playing catch, with 2,278 receptions in an hour.
They also raised more than $8,000 for KidSport.
Ross just finished fundraising $1,700 for another family.
The next fundraiser she has planned is in August for a Maple Ridge boy named Landry, who was born with two heart defects.
“I like doing this, and that is exactly what I want to continue doing,” said Ross, recently promoted to school prevention worker with Alouette Addictions.
She loves her new position as she gets to interact with even more youth in the community.
“That would be my goal is to get a really big youth clientele and get trusted by the youth out here so they know that they always have a place to go to for support, where they are not going to be judged.”