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Andy Prest: KidSport volunteer remembered as fierce advocate for young athletes

Karen Lidster co-founded a North Shore charity devoted to helping kids stay active in sports
Karen Lidster web
Alice Benson, Russ Benson, Karen Lidster and Perry Solkowski.promote KidSport at a Canada Day celebration.

It seems like a straightforward proposition: any kid who wants to try out a sport should be able to play.

The benefits of having an active childhood are seemingly too numerous to mention in this space: a healthy body and healthy mind growing together with each new movement, planting the seeds for a lifetime of active living. Add in aspects of teamwork, fair play, competitiveness, respect, and, most of all, fun, and a path to happiness is clear, not to mention a foundation for building a good, engaged citizen.

A six-year-old certainly isn’t thinking of any of those lofty ideals when they ask to play on a soccer team or to try gymnastics, but they should be able to give it a shot regardless of their family’s finances. But that’s not always the case, even here on the affluent North Shore.

West Vancouver native Karen Lidster knew that. In 2001, Lidster joined with Tom Walker to found KidSport North Shore, a local chapter of a charity devoted to helping families overcome the prohibitive cost of sport. KidSport began as a program of Sport BC, and has now spread across Canada through 166 local, territorial or provincial chapters.

The North Shore was one of the first chapters, and Lidster, the founding chairperson, was one of the organization’s driving forces for the next two decades.

“She was always a big advocate of making sure that kids could participate wherever they wanted to participate,” said her good friend and fellow KidSport volunteer Alice Benson. “When this opportunity [to create KidSport North Shore] came up, she said ‘Well, this is just the perfect way to make sure that we can allow it to keep happening.’”

Lidster never had kids of her own, which makes her devotion to the cause of helping others get involved in youth sport all the more remarkable, said Benson.

“That showed how big her heart was, that she could just share this important part of her life with kids that she didn’t even know, many of them she would never even meet,” she said. “She was a generous, positive, always upbeat person who always had everyone else’s best interest at heart. Always.”

Lidster kept fighting for other people’s children even as cancer started attacking her body. Eight years after her diagnosis, she was still doing all she could to help KidSport function.

“It was just something that was inside of her, something that right to her dying day she was involved with,” said Benson. “She made sure that I kept her up to date on what was going on, right up until the day before she died.”

That day was Dec. 10, 2021. Karen Lidster was 67 when she died.

Benson said Lidster made her promise that she would help keep KidSport going. It is still going, thanks to volunteers like Benson and new chairperson Scott MacFarlane. But they have a unique problem these days: they have grants to give out – the money goes to pay registration fees for children who need the help – but they haven’t had enough athletes apply.

“We need more applicants, for sure,” said Benson, adding that all of the information needed to make use of the program can be found on the KidSport North Shore website. Benson was also quick to point out that there are two other organizations – Jumpstart and Athletics for Kids – that provide similar opportunities on the North Shore, and that parents should access any of them if it will help get a kid in the game. 

“We’re all here to for the same cause,” she said. “Hopefully no one is ever deterred from putting their kids in sport.”

Benson’s cause is for the kids, as playing sports was “invaluable” for her own children, she said. “It kept them out of trouble. It kept them busy. … For my daughter, she went on to swim competitively through university, and it paved the way for unbelievable job opportunities that she’s continuing to have as an adult.”

But Benson’s cause is now just as much about keeping her friend Karen’s legacy alive.

“She was giving and caring,” said Benson. “Just generous and beautiful, and I miss her every single day.”


Andy Prest is the sports and features editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.

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