Tue, 21 Jun 2016 22:10:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Vital Signs – A Group For Boys Mon, 20 Jun 2016 16:00:32 +0000 Continue reading]]> keaton and kidsIt’s no secret that Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) has a lot of kids on our waiting list for a Big Brother or Sister. Right now the number is right around 1000, with 800 of those being boys. Thanks to the support of the Edmonton Community Foundation Vital Signs program, we’re piloting a project that will address the needs of our community’s boys with a bit more urgency.

Vital Signs funding has generously allowed us to hire a male Outreach Support Worker & Club Program Facilitator. Meet Keaton, a young man with a lot of energy and a heart for our community’s kids. Through Keaton’s time, we have been able to increase support in our clubs and provide more immediate service and programming to children who are waiting for a mentor.

“Lots of boys lack a male figure in their lives,” Keaton says. “My role in the Club is to give them someone to talk to that’s not their parents – I’m just someone else to hang out with.”

That hangout time is incredibly important. According to Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, after school hours is the largest block of discretionary time in a child’s typical day. Many kids spend that time in isolation, at home in front of the TV or a computer. We know that children need to lead active and healthy lives and having too much unstructured, unsupervised and unproductive time can undermine their positive development.

In February and March of 2015, BGCBigs undertook a number of focus groups and surveys with the parents and guardians of our kids. One of the parents from South Edmonton told us, “I wish the Club was open more because there’s nothing else for my kids to do after school in this neighbourhood.” And that sentiment was echoed my many other caregivers.

Thanks to the grant, we’ve been able to increase the hours at our Club Connect sites so that kids are able to spend more time engaging in programming and hanging out with our staff and volunteers. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of boys served – nearly 40 percent more than the previous year.

“When I first started lots of kids would only come one night a week, or they would go through weeks or months when they just wouldn’t show up at all,” Keaton says. “But now, we’re seeing the same kids every night we’re open.”

Two brothers are a great example. They’re 10 and 8 years old, and they had been absent from the Club since the summer. But once Keaton started running a group specifically for boys suddenly the brothers were back. And they haven’t missed a single night in over 4 months!

The boys who are part of the Vital Signs program are able to spend their time afterschool engaging with other children and with a male mentor. Together, they play everything from soccer to broom ball. This winter they played hockey, and went skiing and skating. Many of the boys were newcomers to Canada and got to the experience our winter sports for the very first time!

A young guy from our Sakaw Club used to only ever play with action figures at the Club. To talk with him, you’d have to start by bringing up one of his action figures or else he wouldn’t engage in conversation. Plus, he would go home once the staff tried to run any active programs. But Keaton was able to get him participating in the boys group and now he plays with the other kids, and will open up to the staff without any prompting.

Another great component of the programming included a heavy focus on nutrition. Once a week they would have “Nutritional Night”. Together the boys would discuss what makes food healthy, play games, and prepare a healthy meal for dinner.

“One of my favourite nights was when we had a potluck,” Keaton explains. “I asked the kids to bring in something that they would normally eat at home that was also healthy. It was so cool to see what they brought in and watch them all experience different foods.”

We’ve also made positive strides towards recruiting more male volunteers in South Edmonton, thanks to the specific male recruitment efforts of Keaton and our Volunteer Recruitment department. So kids all over the city, not just in the south, have access to a caring mentor. Since Keaton first started, they’ve got a few male volunteers to be a consistent part of the boys groups, and it’s amazing that these kids now have several grown men to look up to.

One of the boys sums up the program quite nicely with just a few words: “I love the boys program because it gives me an opportunity to make more friends and we do cool stuff all the time.”

We are so grateful to the Edmonton Community Foundation for enabling us to run this program and we can’t wait to see the impact it has over the coming months and years!

Health & Happy Futures Mon, 13 Jun 2016 15:00:55 +0000 Continue reading]]> Divya 2We are so fortunate to have nearly 3,000 caring volunteers working with children and youth in our community. And we love when they share their experiences with us. Divya Jha is a mentor in our EXCEL Program™ and she recently shared her experience this past year in the hopes that hearing directly from a volunteer will inspire others to get involved. 

I have been an In-School Mentor with BGCBIGS since 2011, and I have loved every minute of it. About 2 years after I first began, my good friend and fellow mentor, Mohit Kumar, created EXCEL.

I was on board immediately; I found 1-on-1 mentoring to be valuable, but I knew that if a group of dedicated mentors could focus their efforts on a group of students; together, we could create the best experience possible. Before we knew it, EXCEL was underway. Our team made huge strides in the academic performance and self-confidence of the students. More than that, the sense of belongingness we have worked hard to cultivate in each and every mentor and mentee has kept attendance high and motivation strong. It is team spirit that makes everything we achieve in EXCEL possible.

Delivering a weekly mini-lecture series on preventative health was an idea that Mohit had been keen on since he first envisioned EXCEL. He waited until EXCEL was firmly in place before he approached me to organize and deliver the series. I was more than happy to do so, because of my background in health and research. We brainstormed some topics: substance abuse, nutrition/exercise and mental health. I was confident that I had much to share about each subject, but I had not anticipated how much my own breadth of knowledge would grow; simply by approaching each topic from the viewpoint of our students.

For many of our mentees, this lecture series was the first introduction to certain health topics. It was up to me to deliver a concise, memorable presentation on some very serious subjects. Thankfully, I knew my audience quite well and was able to create this series in a student-centered way. Doing so helped me think more closely about each topic and its delivery; whether that was consulting pediatricians for the most up-to-date recommendations, including a list of helplines and hotlines for each lecture, including information about ethnically diverse foods in our lecture about nutrition, or asking my fellow mentor and EMT worker, Krista, to share some of the valuable and relevant information she has gained from the ‘real world’, so to speak. Our health series was a resounding success; it was immensely rewarding for me to see so much enthusiasm and curiosity surrounding health. We have received valuable feedback from the students and their mentors, and we look forward to bringing forward an even better health series in the future.

It has been a privilege to equip our students with the tools and skills with which they will navigate their health in their own lives. The work that I put towards this lecture series has only enhanced my passion for health and dedication to the wellbeing of our students. For 3 years now, our team has enjoyed learning and growing together in EXCEL.

I invite you to join us and become an EXCEL Program™ Mentor as we move forward in our mission to Excite, Challenge, and Empower Learners.

To learn more about the EXCEL Program™, click here for details and to apply.

10 Reasons to Golf For Kids Mon, 06 Jun 2016 17:00:34 +0000 Continue reading]]> _MDK5763We are so excited to open registrations for our 6th Annual Golf Tournament, presented by Landrex Inc. It will take place on August 18th at the Cougar Creek Golf Resort! This is one of our main fundraisers each year. Last year, we raised $142,700 to provide safe places and positive relationships for nearly 5,000 children and youth.

You might be wondering what’s so great about our tournament. We’ll , we’ve got a list of 10 reasons why you or your company should join us!

1)    Get Out of The Office.
You work hard all year long. It’s time to treat yourself to an easy day and get out of the office. It’s still “work”, but it’s a lot more fun when there’s a golf ball and a few drinks involved!

ASK_69292)    Devour Delicious Goodies.
What’s a golf tournament without food? We’ll have stations set up around the course where you can fill up and re-energize. Browns Socialhouse, Canadian Brewhouse, Molson Canadian, Steam Whistle, and Starbucks are just a few who will be onsite. Plus, we feed you a really fantastic steak and chicken dinner afterwards.

3)    Play at Cougar Creek Golf Resort.
Have you ever seen this course? It’s stunning! Cougar Creek is a championship length golf course that winds through a natural setting. It was designed to make the most of the beautiful treed and rolling terrain. Each hole is unique. The first eleven holes weave through the trees, holes twelve through fifteen open up and are somewhat links style, holes sixteen and seventeen go back into the trees and hole eighteen is open but watery. Seriously, you don’t want to miss out.

4)    Enjoy the Sunshine.
“What’s that”, you’re probably wondering. After the winter, we too forget what sunshine feels like. Yes, it is possible to go outside without a winter jacket, boots, mittens, etc. Wear your best golf pants or shorts or skirt, and make sure you bring some sunscreen.

_MDK57735)    Win Prizes.
We’re not even kidding about this one. There are silent auction items you can win, a 50/50, the poker hand, and a hole-in-one vehicle from St. Albert Honda. Last year Deanne Bolton got a hole in one and she drove home a brand new car. This year, it could be you!

6)    Network with some of the best people in Edmonton.
With over 150 golf spots, there will be tonnes of folks for you to network with. Need a new windshield? Talk to Ken from Crystal Glass. Want advice from an accounting professional? Elyse from BDO Canada can hook you up. (Or don’t network, and just enjoy the day with your teammates. Whatever works!)

DSC_73877)    Get Silly.
One of our favourite parts of this tournament are the activities we’ve got on the holes to keep you on your toes. Last year, everyone nearly died laughing as they watched team after team compete in Minute-To-Win-It themed games. For example, who could get the most steps by just shaking their heads? Who could maneuver an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands? It was gold! There’s also a photo booth complete with ridiculous props and we’ll send out your photos after the tournament as a souvenir.

8)    Treat Your Clients or Employees.
Golf Tournaments make really great opportunities to show your appreciation. You can treat your loyal clients or top performing employees to a round of golf. They’ll appreciate a unique experience, feel valued, and notice your commitment to our community.

9)    Meet our Kids._MDK5420
A handful of kiddos will be joining us to help you out on the putting green. Chat with them about their young lives, learn about our programs, and just enjoy spending time with some awesome young people. After all, they’re the reason we do what we do.

10)    Make A Difference.
By coming to our Golf Tournament, you’re helping us raise money to provide the kids and families of our community with the supports and services they need. This event is one of our largest and most important fundraisers and truly enables us to continue our important work of providing safe places and positive relationships for nearly 5,000 kids.

Click here for details on how to register today!

***Note that a very limited number of sponsorship and individual registrations are available.

You Can Help Us Win $10,000! Wed, 01 Jun 2016 16:08:13 +0000 Continue reading]]> IMG_6201Joe and Mary are a young couple living in Edmonton. After a long day of work, sometimes at two different jobs, they come home to spend a few precious minutes of quality time with their three young kids. Sometimes they struggle to make ends meet while also finding time for their little ones, but usually it all works out. Joe’s family lives in Ontario and Mary’s are up in St. Paul so they can’t often rely on the support a family would normally provide. Knowing that they needed to find help, they got in touch with Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs). Their daughter is matched to a Big Sister and the youngest son attends a local community Club while he waits for a Big Brother. Unfortunately, the oldest boy, almost a teen, isn’t interested in the Club,  so he spends his evenings at home watching TV or gaming. He’s also on the waiting list for a Big and his parents hope that BGCBigs can find him one soon. Sometimes Joe and Mary feel isolated from their community, but there are two occasions where they truly feel hopeful.

IMG_4624The BGCBigs Annual Summer Picnic and Holiday Party are both events that bring together the entire BGCBigs community of people who care about kids. Both Joe and Mary make sure to get those Saturdays off work so they can spend time with their kids, treat them to carnival games and face painting and hot dogs at the picnic and a turkey dinner and gifts from Santa at the Holiday Party. The kids talk about it for weeks afterwards and it’s become a little family tradition to be at both. Maybe best of all, it helps Joe and Mary reconnect with their community and they remember they have a strong foundation to lean on when things get tough.

IMG_6267Those events are two of our favourite times of year at BGCBigs. We love bringing together over 1500 of our kids, their families, and volunteers. We want people to feel connected to us and to each other, because a stronger community means we can build stronger, more resilient, and more confident young people. And those events might be one of the few occasions where our families get to meet each other and treat their kids to a day of uninterrupted fun for absolutely no cost.

You can help make these events possible for our families.

Join the Great Canadian Giving Challenge! Throughout the month of June, every dollar donated to BGCBigs through Canada Helps earns us a chance to win $10,000! $10,000 is what we need to make our Annual Picnic and Holiday Party possible for another year.

Plus the money you donate will immediately enable BGCBigs to provide quality after school and mentoring programs to nearly 5,000 children in Edmonton and the surrounding areas. The kids who take part in our programs live in your neighbourhood. We make sure they have somewhere safe to go after school, before mom or dad or grandma get home. We make sure they have an additional caring adult in their life to help guide them down the right path. We make sure they have access to the tools they need to build their self-esteem, graduate from highschool, and become successful adults and future leaders.

IMG_6280Here are some concrete examples of what your donation can do:

  • $3 – Provides 3 kids with a hot meal in one of our Clubs
  • $12 – Enables 2 families to attend our Summer Picnic & Holiday Party
  • $25 – Provides training materials for 1 Volunteer
  • $50 – Provides 2 Big-Little Matches with an opportunity to attend an event together
  • $250 – Allows 40 kids to access an art or cultural opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have access too

Click here to DONATE today!

Learn more about the Great Canadian Giving Challenge.GCGC - graphic

Ready For Summer? Mon, 30 May 2016 16:05:40 +0000 Continue reading]]> _K7A9396Summer is just around the corner, and we can’t wait to spend the days enjoying the sunshine with our community’s kids!  We’ve got nearly 20 summer camps and summer programs to keep Edmonton and area kids active and engaged over the break. Plus, we do our best to ensure that all of our programs foster self-confidence, create new opportunities, and help kids forge strong relationships.

Last summer, our Millwoods Welcome Centre summer camp took a field trip to Fort Edmonton Park. Many of the children had recently moved to Canada. One child in particular spoke up on the way back to the Centre and said to his friend “I had the best day ever. We’re the luckiest kids in the entire world!” This same young boy had started the camp quite shy and soft-spoken. Over the course of the summer, he blossomed into one of the leaders and became more confident and outspoken!

We hope to be able to share many more heartwarming stories like that over the summer! To view a full list of all of our registered and drop in programs during July and August, please click here. If you would like to volunteer, please click here.