By: Ian Walker
Soccer I Call it a life-changing moment. For both John Dalziel and the hundreds of thousands of at-risk children his Kids Up Front Foundation has helped since.
It was 1999 and Dalziel was sitting with a friend in the front row of a world-class event having received complimentary tickets.
Dalziel left that night shaking his head. Not that he was disappointed with the performance, rather it was that he couldn't believe how many seats he knew had been paid for but remained empty.
He made a promise to himself to do something to fill the empty seats he saw at sports events, theatrical productions and concerts with kids and families who wouldn't normally have the chance to attend.
"I knew those seats had been paid for and that those tickets were probably in somebody's desk -- and that seemed like a wasted opportunity," says Dalziel, a Calgary businessman.
"Giving kids exposure to great theatre, music and sports is an investment in their futures as well as a fun day out."
The Vancouver chapter of Kids Up Front has allocated more than 700 tickets for tonight's United Soccer Leagues First Division matchup between the hometown Whitecaps and Rochester Rhinos at Swangard Stadium to deserving children and their families.
Over the last four years, the organization has distributed more than 78,000 tickets through more than 100 Lower Mainland charities. That's more than $2 million in donations.
While many charitable organizations are important for providing children and families with basic essentials, Kids Up Front provides nourishment for the spirit, another essential element in healthy development.
An event gives a child an escape from the difficulties he or she faces and the chance to just be a kid. These experiences can also open a child's eyes to the possibilities of pursuing the arts, athletics or science.
"There is such a demand that these tickets are literally allocated within hours," says Cindy Graves, executive director for Kids Up Front Vancouver. "And we are just scratching the surface of the available tickets out there. When you hear how ecstatic these vulnerable children and youth are to get a chance to go to a Canucks or Whitecaps game, it makes it all worthwhile."
The program also has offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. Tickets are donated by individuals, event organizations and corporate supporters.
To donate your tickets, contact Graves at 604 266-KIDS (5437) or visit www.kidsupfront.com
© The Vancouver Sun 2008