A new project is combining the benefits of sport and nutrition to help thousands of people in North Ayrshire.
The ParkLives project, which started at Dalry Community Sport Club (CSC) and now runs sessions in Kilbirnie and Beith, gives children and adults the opportunity to take part in a range of sports and physical activities outdoors while also providing free food for everyone who goes along.
The sessions are designed to promote social inclusion while allowing local children to experience the physical and mental benefits of taking part in regular sporting activity for free, with the help of volunteers and local Active Schools leaders.
Project Kilbirnie, the Beith Trust and Dalry CSC worked together to run a 16-week programme over the summer for about 7,000 participants in the three towns. An incredible 9,500 portions of food were given out and some nights there were more than 300 people in attendance
The success of the project has led to the sessions continuing inside at Dalry CSC throughout the autumn and winter with the help of coaches from KA Leisure and volunteers.
Allan McGinlay, chairperson of Dalry CSC, said the project had made a big impact for participants. He said: “To align ourselves with North Ayrshire’s priorities, which was social inclusion and food with dignity, we started introducing free food with some of the free activities we put on.
“What’s really good about it is if you go down to the school on Wednesday night you see a lot of parents mixing as well. They get together and have a chat over a cup of tea.
"It’s bringing a lot of people together as well as giving the kids the chance to take part in sport.
“There was a boy at a recent session who had not long joined the school and you could see he was very shy. Within about half an hour you could see him running about with the other kids and having a ball.
“We’ve had more volunteers stepping forward to help us recently, we get a lot of good feedback from kids and parents on the nights.”
Scott Robertson, KA Leisure community sport officer (hubs), said: “We launched the ParkLives project four years ago with the support of DCSC. The initial project was a simple family activity programme based in the local park.
"It’s been fantastic to see the club take ownership of the project and develop the initiative to other areas in the Garnock Valley. They have recognised local priorities which included dignified food provision and have integrated its inclusion into the programme.”
Community sport hubs are one of sportscotland’s key legacy commitments from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since 2014 the number of hubs has nearly doubled and is now at an all-time high - Dalry CSC is one of 197 across Scotland.
Hubs bring together sport clubs and community organisations who want to develop and grow the sporting offering in the community.
They focus on community-led approaches that get clubs working together to develop welcoming, safe and fun environments for sport.
Stewart Harris, sportscotland chief executive, said: “We know from experience the life-changing effect of sport participation and that can be seen in hubs across the country.
“It is fantastic to see such a successful partnership working well to benefit so many people in North Ayrshire.”
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About community sports hubs in your area.