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Sport gets society moving

A key role

Sport moves your body, your mind and society. Although a lot of insti­tu­ti­ons are invol­ved in sport, many projects would simply not be possi­ble without phil­an­thro­pic engagement.

‘Sport has the power to inte­grate and to stimu­late,’ says Martin Witt­wer, Natio­nal Direc­tor of the Stif­tung Laureus Schweiz [Laureus foun­da­tion, Switz­er­land]. Since 2006, the Stif­tung Laureus has been provi­ding support to child­ren and young people here in Switz­er­land through social sports program­mes. It is one of eight natio­nal foun­da­ti­ons world­wide that belong to the global Sport For Good foun­da­tion. The natio­nal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons discuss current projects in regu­lar confe­rence calls. Howe­ver, the work itself is carried out differ­ently in every coun­try. In Switz­er­land, more than 20,000 child­ren and young people bene­fit every year. ‘Sport­ing acti­vi­ties play an important role in healthy deve­lo­p­ment,’ says Martin Witt­wer, citing its posi­tive effects not only on physi­cal deve­lo­p­ment, but also on mental and social matu­rity. Sport is the central element of the Laureus programme. And it is highly effec­tive. ‘The child­ren and young people learn through the power of sport to believe in them­sel­ves, to follow their perso­nal goals, over­come setbacks and take control of their own lives,’ he says.

Enthu­si­asm and a zest for life

The posi­tive impact of sport on society is some­thing Matthias Kuratli agrees on. Kuratli is Mana­ging Direc­tor of the Stif­tung Freude herrscht [Joy Rules foun­da­tion]. He quotes his foundation’s Presi­dent, former Fede­ral Coun­cil­lor Adolf Ogi: ‘Sport is the best school for life.’ You learn to win without getting above yours­elf. And you learn to cope with defeat. ‘It is espe­ci­ally important for child­ren to learn that winning and losing are part of life,’ says Kuratli. Just reading the name ‘Freude herrscht’ gives you a sense of the enthu­si­asm the foun­da­tion has for its work. Yet the reason for its exis­tence is a sad one. Adolf Ogi wants to use it to honour his son, who died at the age of 35 from a rare form of cancer. Mathias A. Ogi was an enthu­si­a­stic sports­man. He was active in the Stadt­turn­ver­ein Bern [Bern gymnastics club] and was a keen middle-distance runner. ‘The foun­da­tion is inten­ded to keep the memory of Mathias A. Ogi alive,’ says the Mana­ging Direc­tor. Long may his virtues live: his enthu­si­asm for exer­cise, his zest for life. These are the things that the Stif­tung Freude herrscht wants to pass on to the next gene­ra­tion. ‘We want to get child­ren moving,’ says Matthias Kuratli. And that is what the foun­da­tion has been doing since 2010. In this time, it has supported over 870 projects with a variety of diffe­rent needs. It often doesn’t take huge sums of money to give child­ren unfor­gettable sport­ing expe­ri­en­ces. ‘We get requests from school clas­ses who can’t go to ski camp, or from running groups who need new T‑shirts,’ Kuratli recounts. The Awards Commit­tee asses­ses whether the enquiry meets the purpose of the foun­da­tion, and allo­ca­tes the funds.

Perpe­tually moti­va­ted to move

Since its incep­tion in 2005, fit4future has estab­lished itself as a brand for the promo­tion of sport and health for school-aged child­ren. In 2004, Hans-Dieter Cleven set up a foun­da­tion under his own name and laun­ched this programme. The foun­der is a former chief finan­cial offi­cer and super­vi­sory board member at the whole­sa­ler Metro AG. Upon his reti­re­ment at the age of 60, he wanted to give some­thing back to Swiss society – directly and without any unneces­sary ‘detours’. At the begin­ning of 2022, he deci­ded to let his name fade into the back­ground. The foun­da­tion took on the title of what had alre­ady become the best-estab­lished health programme in schools, and became known as the fit4future foun­da­tion. It is now conti­nuing its success story. Among other things, the foun­da­tion now orga­ni­ses 400 fit4future events a year. For the schools them­sel­ves, the programme is free. ‘The fact that one in three Swiss primary schools parti­ci­pa­tes in fit4future shows the great demand we get from schools,’ says Mana­ging Direc­tor Pascale Vögeli. The foun­da­tion offers them a broad range of acti­vi­ties rela­ting to exer­cise, nutri­tion and mental health. The focus is on preven­tion and the promo­tion of health in child­hood. That was the founder’s inten­tion. ‘Hans-Dieter Cleven was convin­ced that regu­lar sport could do a great deal of good. It impro­ves our health, helps with our mental well-being in a really fun way, and makes an important contri­bu­tion to inte­gra­tion,’ she says. ‘A child’s physio­lo­gi­cal and motor deve­lo­p­ment are stimu­la­ted and boos­ted when their muscles are working.’ But it is not just physi­cal deve­lo­p­ment that the foun­da­tion aims to promote. Pascale Vögeli explains: ‘Exer­cise and sport promote cogni­tive and emotio­nal deve­lo­p­ment; child­ren disco­ver the world through their senses and through move­ment.’ Ulti­m­ately, successful expe­ri­en­ces with exer­cise should also streng­then a child’s self-confi­dence. As well as working in schools, the fit4future foun­da­tion is also active in the leisure sector. It offers multi-sports camps in colla­bo­ra­tion with around 20 sports asso­cia­ti­ons and 60 clubs. ‘There is a lot of demand,’ she says, and points out that the urge to move around is still very much alive in child­ren. ‘Even though child­ren consume around two hours of elec­tro­nic media daily, when asked about their favou­rite thing to do in their spare time, 95% of child­ren replied “play­ing outside” and 86% replied “play­ing sports”.’ So we can conclude that nobody needs to moti­vate child­ren to exer­cise. They’re moti­va­ted already.bei Kindern täglich rund zwei Stun­den beträgt, werden von 95 bzw. 86 Prozent der Kinder «draus­sen spie­len» und «Sport machen» als liebste Frei­zeit­be­schäf­ti­gun­gen genannt.» Deshalb: Kinder im Allge­mei­nen muss man nicht für Bewe­gung begeis­tern, sie sind es. 

Old and young

Andrea Lang knows all about children’s natu­ral urge to move. As the Co-Mana­ging Direc­tor of the Stif­tung Hopp-la [the ‘Oops-a-daisy’ foun­da­tion], this is an important lever for her work, since Hopp-la works across the gene­ra­ti­ons and uses of the power of sport to bring people toge­ther. Its range of acti­vi­ties are targe­ted at both child­ren and the older gene­ra­tion. Because, in spite of the deca­des-wide age gap, they have an asto­nis­hing amount in common. ‘It is univer­sally acknow­led­ged that muscle strength and balance go up and then down again during one’s life­time,’ says Andrea Lang. ‘So child­ren have not yet reached their full poten­tial, while older people’s perfor­mance is decli­ning due to the biolo­gi­cal ageing process.’ This means that the two gene­ra­ti­ons have a compa­ra­ble level of skill when it comes to move­ment, and it’s why Hopp-la’s offe­ring works. Espe­ci­ally because the two groups enrich each other. Child­ren bring along their urge to move their bodies. ‘Older people find them­sel­ves infec­ted with the children’s joy in move­ment and their cheerful­ness, and outdo them­sel­ves,’ says Lang. This gives rise to an emotio­nal bond. Even if the two groups have diffe­rent moti­va­tions for getting invol­ved in the acti­vity and have diffe­rent needs, the program­mes work because a dyna­mic arises from the gene­ra­ti­ons encoun­tering each other. The sessi­ons are orga­nised to encou­rage them to work toge­ther. ‘When a child climbs onto a piece of play equip­ment, the grand­pa­rent quickly reali­ses that the child needs help to solve the task,’ says Lang. This trig­gers exactly the types of move­ment that achieve the health effects that the programme sets out to achieve. Young and old spur each other on. An exam­ple of how this works is the way the giant wire loop game at the Kappeli multi-gene­ra­tio­nal play­ground in Buchs moti­va­tes people to get moving. ‘This is a show­case project for us at the foun­da­tion,’ says Lang. The loop game appeals to both gene­ra­ti­ons. The child and the older person work toge­ther to guide a metal ring through a loopy metal maze while balan­cing on logs, laid on their sides. This helps the child­ren hone their concen­tra­tion skills. As for the adults, it trains their core stabi­lity and balance. Howe­ver, the ‘show­case’ status of the multi-gene­ra­tio­nal play­ground in Buchs is not prima­rily due to its infra­struc­ture – it is more to do with how it is run. A group from a local company actively main­ta­ins the play­ground, and so its long-term pros­pects are assu­red. Hopp-la is not only active in the play­ground, though. Social exer­cise sessi­ons also take place in care homes and other faci­li­ties for the elderly. Child­ren from daycare centres and nursery schools come and spend regu­lar exer­cise sessi­ons with the older gene­ra­tion. In all these projects, two compon­ents are at the fore: bonding between gene­ra­ti­ons and the health bene­fits of exer­cise. ‘That is actually also the unique thing about the Hopp-la approach – combi­ning these two aspects of exer­cise, with the bene­fits it brings to physi­cal and mental health during the course of life, and the social expe­ri­ence of crea­ting bonds between gene­ra­ti­ons,’ says Lang. ‘The core of the approach is encou­ra­ging people to exer­cise in a socia­ble way.’

The Confe­de­ra­tion and philanthropy

The bonds that can be crea­ted, the inte­gra­tion, is one of sport’s strengths. It can be a key ingre­di­ent in the glue that holds society toge­ther. It is good for health. It is an econo­mic factor. It plays a variety of roles. It is important in innu­me­ra­ble ways. For these reasons, there are many orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and a range of diffe­rent insti­tu­ti­ons invol­ved in sport. First and fore­most: the state. ‘The Swiss Confe­de­ra­tion promo­tes sport, parti­cu­larly sports trai­ning,’ reads Article 68 of the Fede­ral Consti­tu­tion. Sports are taught in schools. And its biggest sports promo­tion programme, ‘Jugend und Sport’ [Youth and Sport] cele­bra­tes its 50th anni­ver­sary this year. It offers 80,000 cour­ses and camps for 85 types of sport per year. Over 630,000 child­ren and young people take part. Along with what the state offers, many people also take it upon them­sel­ves to get invol­ved as volun­teers. Accor­ding to a study by the Fede­ral Office of Sport, there are 19,000 sports clubs with two million active members across Switz­er­land. And yet, in many areas, it is only thanks to nume­rous instances of phil­an­thro­pic enga­ge­ment that grass­roots or niche sports can happen at all. One foun­da­tion whose name really says it all is the Stif­tung Brei­ten­sport [Grass­roots Sports foun­da­tion] in Lucerne. Its Mana­ging Direc­tor, Hans Peter Lüthi, says: ‘We want to support grass­roots sport to help combat low exer­cise levels and the problem of obesity.’ Child­ren and young people, but adults too – the foun­da­tion supports projects for all age groups. And they often have a social aspect too. For instance, in the canton of Uri, the foun­da­tion helped the Midnight Basket­ball project achieve a breakth­rough. ‘The concept had alre­ady worked well in other cantons, such as Aargau and Zurich,’ Lüthi tells us. But in Uri it met with scep­ti­cism. So he perso­nally worked on making it happen. The Midnight Basket­ball project opens up gym halls in the evenings. The idea is to moti­vate young people to get active on a Satur­day night. The foun­da­tion helped finance it in Uri for the first three years, and in the mean­time, the project has become estab­lished. Though funding is normally time-limi­ted, it can go beyond three years, depen­ding on the project. ‘We must have supported Lucerne’s ‘Seeüber­que­rung’ [an annual swim across Lake Lucerne] seven times alre­ady,’ says Lüthi. This is an estab­lished commit­ment. And he sees it as important: ‘The Seeüber­que­rung is a wort­hwhile project. Swim­ming lessons and trai­ning days are all part of it.’

Unex­pec­ted support

Hans Peter Lüthi’s invol­vement in sport has to do with his own history: in 1972, he took part in the coxed four rowing event at the Olym­pic Games. And he has passed down his enthu­si­asm for sport to his family, with his daugh­ter compe­ting at the Olym­pics in Sydney and in Athens. Now, at over 70, he some­ti­mes considers slowing down. ‘But then our 94-year-old patron and trus­tee, Arthur Waser, tells me I’m still young,’ he says. The patron, who is well known in the region, mainly supports cultu­ral projects. Fifteen years ago, he was persua­ded by sports-mad Lucer­ners to found the Stif­tung Brei­ten­sport and support it with a CHF 500,000 dona­tion. ‘We are a limi­ted term trust,’ says Lüthi. Arthur Waser and the grant-making foun­da­tion Asuera ensure that funds keep flowing for the Stif­tung Brei­ten­sport. The Stif­tung Asuera, loca­ted in Hurden, is invol­ved in two areas: ‘Modern Tech­no­lo­gies’ and ‘Exer­cise & Sport’. Some­ti­mes Asuera and Stif­tung Brei­ten­sport also help each other out. ‘And it some­ti­mes happens that we might pass a project on to them because we can’t take it on,’ he says. Still, he would be plea­sed if other grant-making foun­da­ti­ons would support them, as he sees poten­tial to support other projects. ‘This year in parti­cu­lar, we have been getting an amazing number of enqui­ries due to coro­na­vi­rus,’ says Lüthi. In a normal year, the Board of Trus­tees deals with 50 enqui­ries. ‘This year, I’d gone through 40 enqui­ries alre­ady by the middle of April,’ he says. The foun­da­tion gives out a total of CHF 125,000 to around 25 projects every year. This bene­fits clubs in the six cantons in Central Switz­er­land. Although, Hans Peter Lüthi does notice clear diffe­ren­ces between the cantons. Hardly any enqui­ries reach him from the canton of Zug or the commu­ni­ties surroun­ding Lake Zurich. There is presu­ma­bly less need for finan­cial support in those areas, he concludes. In order to receive the foundation’s support, a project alre­ady has to have 50% of its funding, and the appli­ca­tion has to come from a society or club. As a gene­ral rule, the foun­da­tion finan­ces a project for up to three years. The sums invol­ved are usually around the CHF 2,000 mark, often less. ‘“Free Snow Sattel” is a typi­cal project,’ Lüthi says. This is a project that he is passio­nate about. Every child that attends school in the muni­ci­pa­lity of Sattel can ski for free, all winter long. ‘That is outstan­ding,’ he enthu­ses. Howe­ver, the Stif­tung Brei­ten­sport also seizes the initia­tive itself. Once a year, a club bene­fits – comple­tely out of the blue. Because the foun­da­tion itself goes looking for a club that is worthy of support. ‘Every year we go to a region in which we haven’t been active yet,’ says Lüthi. Then, he sear­ches for poten­tial clubs. And, as with all enqui­ries, it is the Board of Trus­tees that deci­des which club should receive their support. ‘Sit down,’ he says, when he cont­acts the presi­dent of the club to tell them that they can look forward to a dona­tion of CHF 5,000.

Sending out a call via social media

The Stif­tung Freude herrscht also carries out its own projects. With two active weekends in Kander­steg and Zermatt, as well as ski days in Hasli­berg, the foun­da­tion takes initia­tive itself. ‘We invite child­ren who would not other­wise have this chance,’ says Matthias Kuratli. ‘We invite either indi­vi­dual child­ren or entire clas­ses of kids.’ This year, the foun­da­tion sent out an invi­ta­tion to the ski day in Hasli­berg via social media. He explains the idea: ‘Because a lot of skiing events were cancel­led due to coro­na­vi­rus, we wanted to offer a little conso­la­tion.’ Demand was high. When selec­ting clas­ses of school­child­ren, the foun­da­tion kept in mind their prin­ci­ple of promo­ting inte­gra­tion. In the end, clas­ses from various parts of the coun­try were able to enjoy the ski day toge­ther. Child­ren from diffe­rent schools met, went skiing toge­ther and made friends. ‘The call via social media worked really well,’ says Kuratli. And those who were not chosen this year can still hold out hope. They were not simply rejec­ted; instead, their appli­ca­tion was noted and they will get another chance next year. The foun­da­tion also relies on charity events to allow the next projects to take place. For instance, it is orga­ni­s­ing two golf tour­na­ments. ‘Ski For Kids is also purely a charity project,’ Kuratli points out. At these events, sports, busi­ness and cultu­ral perso­na­li­ties put on their skis. To start with, spon­sors pay an entry fee to spend the day with someone like World Cham­pion Mike von Grüni­gen, and go skiing with them. Five people can ski with each cele­brity. In addi­tion, the foun­da­tion looks for a company like Swiss­com or BKW to spon­sor each of the 14 teams for every kilo­metre they ski. When sear­ching for compa­nies, the foun­da­tion has two big points in its favour. ‘We get child­ren moving,’ says Kuratli, ‘And we bene­fit from the charisma of former Fede­ral Coun­cil­lor Adolf Ogi. His name gives us credi­bi­lity,’ he says. ‘He is behind us and people trust him.’ Also, as the former Direc­tor of the Swiss Skiing Asso­cia­tion, he has a large network at his dispo­sal. Among Ogi’s acquain­tance are many people willing to give some­thing back. This is how Olym­pic ski cross gold medal­list Ryan Regez, and entre­pre­neur and musi­cian Marc Trauf­fer were persua­ded to get invol­ved in aid of child­ren. The foun­da­tion also orga­nised the ‘Blau­see-Schwim­men’ charity event, where parti­ci­pants pay to swim across the Blau­see moun­tain lake. Despite these impactful occa­si­ons, charity events gene­rate only around 15% of the foundation’s budget. ‘The rest comes from contri­bu­ti­ons from donors,’ says Kuratli. ‘Some may be major donors, who donate seve­ral thousand francs. But we have also been known to receive twenty-franc notes in an enve­lope.’ And finally, Adolf Ogi hims­elf lends his support. ‘When our presi­dent is enga­ged as a spea­ker, he doesn’t demand a fee. Instead, he persua­des the orga­nisers to make a dona­tion to the foundation.’

Charity Night

The Laureus Stif­tung Charity Night is always a great expe­ri­ence. ‘But we also orga­nise a Sport For Good Weekend and other fund­rai­sing events,’ says Martin Witt­wer. ‘Of course, fund­rai­sing is at the core of all these events.’ But it’s more than that. They want the gene­ral public and public insti­tu­ti­ons to learn about their work. Donors can attend the social sports program­mes and share expe­ri­en­ces with ambassa­dors, who also act as important role models for the child­ren and young people. ‘They encou­rage them to take regu­lar exer­cise, but also to believe in their dreams, set them­sel­ves chal­lenges and grow from them,’ he says. In this way, they can expe­ri­ence first-hand what sport can achieve: ‘Sport conveys values such as team spirit, respect, disci­pline and fair play – values that also help kids and young people in their ever­y­day lives, at school and during trai­ning for their future care­ers, and that promote equal oppor­tu­nity,’ says Martin Witt­wer. Part­ner­ships help in carry­ing out these projects, such as those with IWC and Merce­des Benz, who are inter­na­tio­nal part­ners and foun­ders of the global foun­da­tion. In Switz­er­land, Groupe Mutuel and MSS Holding AG are also natio­nal part­ners of Laureus. For effec­tive colla­bo­ra­tion, Laureus also goes into part­ner­ship with other foun­da­ti­ons. In its role as a conven­tio­nal grant-making foun­da­tion, it also helps support the fit4future sports camps. Martin Witt­wer says: ‘Our role in this includes provi­ding finan­cial support, help with devi­sing the programme, invol­ving our ambassa­dors and impro­ving visi­bi­lity at our events.’ Toge­ther, both foun­da­ti­ons encou­rage child­ren and young people to exer­cise regu­larly, and both ensure that access to their offe­rings is as easy as possi­ble. The new part­ner­ship is alre­ady working very well. ‘Laureus mainly focu­ses on the promo­tion of health and inte­gra­tion, which perfectly aligns with our own prio­ri­ties,’ says Pascale Vögeli. ‘On the one hand, Laureus is a valuable spon­sor for us. On the other hand, our multi-sports camps offer a high-quality plat­form to the Laureus ambassa­dors and athle­tes. The fit4future foun­da­tion also main­ta­ins other part­ner­ships, some over many years. Quality is always at the heart of these rela­ti­onships, which is the only way they can last for the long haul. Trans­pa­rency, trust and common ground are important here, espe­ci­ally when it comes to projects rela­ting to schools. ‘When part­ne­ring with compa­nies to work with schools, it is important to point out the possi­bi­li­ties and the no-go areas from the very start,’ says Vögeli. ‘For instance, product place­ment in schools is an abso­lute no-go. But the schools know us and they know that we stick to ethi­cal prin­ci­ples like these.’ 

Grown quickly

The Stif­tung Hopp-la has grown quickly; it has had to, to keep up with demand. Nevert­hel­ess, the foun­da­tion wants to gradu­ally bow out of its active parti­ci­pa­tion in opera­ti­ons and concen­trate more on using its know­ledge in an advi­sory capa­city, to give others the skills they need. ‘As a natio­nal centre of excel­lence, we contri­bute towards spre­a­ding and estab­li­shing the promo­tion of exer­cise and health in a way that brings gene­ra­ti­ons toge­ther right across Switz­er­land,’ says Andrea Lang. Hopp-la raises aware­ness among stake­hol­ders in civil society, admi­nis­tra­tion and poli­tics; it empowers and advi­ses them, and provi­des support for networ­king. Crea­ting a network for inter­ge­ne­ra­tio­nal social exer­cise initia­ti­ves is the X factor that will help them reach the gene­ral public and increase aware­ness of the topic. Howe­ver, various orga­ni­sa­ti­ons, such as Pro Senec­tute, are them­sel­ves the experts for the target groups. ‘This makes it possi­ble to embed in local struc­tures the approach of promo­ting exer­cise groups that combine diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons. This is central to getting them estab­lished and ensu­ring they last,’ says Lang. In pulling back to become more of an advi­sory service, the foun­da­tion is retur­ning to its roots. It began with an acade­mic study, the master’s thesis of Co-Mana­ging Direc­tor Debora Junker-Wick. She felt the need to conti­nue her work in prac­tice. This resul­ted in the estab­lish­ment of the foun­da­tion in 2014, buil­ding on the work of Lukas Zahner. Zahner, now Emeri­tus Profes­sor of Trai­ning and Exer­cise Scien­ces at the Depart­ment of Sport, Exer­cise and Health at the Univer­sity of Basel, is an influ­en­tial figure in exer­cise rese­arch. ‘One of the topics he focu­sed on was promo­ting exer­cise among seni­ors and child­ren,’ says Lang. Preven­ting falls in older people was a parti­cu­lar inte­rest of his, along with the incre­asing inac­ti­vity in young and old and the resul­ting issue of falls, which costs milli­ons of francs a year. Rela­ti­onships between gene­ra­ti­ons, chan­ges in people’s circum­s­tances and the use of open spaces were imme­diate chal­lenges affec­ting social and health poli­cies. This was the back­drop for the estab­lish­ment of the Hopp-la foun­da­tion. It was Lukas Zahner who initia­ted the idea of the foun­da­tion, and he’s still on its Board of Trus­tees. Because the Hopp-la project began at the Univer­sity of Basel’s Depart­ment of Sport, Exer­cise and Health, it has follo­wed an evidence-based approach from the very begin­ning. ‘The story of its orig­ins means that our focus over the past few years has always been firmly groun­ded in the science of trai­ning and exer­cise, and we have been able to use a host of scien­ti­fic findings to shape the acti­vi­ties Hopp-la offers,’ says Andrea Lang.

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