YORKTON - The Calgary Surge are looking to grow the sport of basketball among Calgary youth.
But how best to do that?
Well to start you ask groups in touch with youth, said Brittany Easton, Senior Vice-President with the Surge.
“How can we contribute. How do we build some meaningful connections,” she told Yorkton This Week.
After consulting the board of Sport Calgary, Kids Sport and a number of other organizations, Easton said they learned one of the barriers was footwear.
“There are a lot of barriers to getting into sport,” said Easton, adding the shoes can be one because of bullying based on what shoes a player wears.
The Surge took that need to heart.
The CEBL team partnered with #YCCSOLEDIERS and Status YYC to encourage people to donate used sneakers at their games and at Surge events, which then would be donated to Kids Sports.
For youth sneakers are almost a status symbol, and there was a need to find a way to make affordable ones cool for players to wear on the court.
The next step has been to partner with local artists to paint affordable sneakers.
One of those artists is Billie Rae Busby (Sparrow), who grew up in Yorkton.
“One of the owners is a fan of my work and was hoping I could be involved in some sort of project with them in the first year,” she told Yorkton This Week.
Certainly shoes are a different ‘canvas’ for Busby who tends to do large works. For example, she completed a significant and unique art commission from TC Energy to create a total of 16 original paintings ranging in size from large-scale works of 52”x 86” down to 12” x 16”, created for a renovated floor at the TC Energy offices in Calgary.
“I like the challenge of painting on a different surface,” said Busby of working with sneakers.
“But most of all I was drawn to the charity aspect of the Net Gainz Project and that they were promoting that someone could have a really unique pair of sneakers by using some imagination and creativity. . .
“It was a new challenge as I have not worked with leather paint before. It took many, many layers to achieve the thick colour sections, so just some extra time well-spent.”
It helps Busby counts herself a basketball fan.
“I am a sports fan overall and I am really drawn to the community work that the Surge has incorporated in their team values,” she said. “Plus the games are a ton of fun to be at. The staff are extremely professional but also know how to put on a family-friendly, engaging and entertaining event.”
But back to the shoes. What was the inspiration for the art on Busby’s shoes?
“The inspiration for my shoe design was the northern lights and the energy and movement we experience when we see them,” she said. “It was a fitting correlation between the excitement and unexpected moments at the Surge games and our natural world.”
The customized sneakers will be auctioned off with proceeds from the auction going towards the Calgary Surge Net Gainz Program to buy new affordable sneakers that kids can customize themselves.