ABC's of the BGC
As of February 1st 2021, The Boys and Girls Club of Fort Saskatchewan has been in the community for 35 years! In a different world, we would getting ready to throw a party, an open house where people could come together to reminisce about their experiences whether it be as a staff, volunteer, or member, share in our successes, and celebrate how much we have grown since we opened the doors to that repurposed fire hall all those years ago.
Well, if there is one thing our experience has taught us, it is how to adapt and respond to the situations life throws at us and we have done just that. To celebrate this milestone anniversary, we will be taking you down a virtual memory lane through the ABC's of the BGC! Each week we will explore a different part of what has made the Boys and Girls Club what it is today and sharing some old school pictures along the way! Keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for a chance to win cool BGC prizes and share stories from your time at the Boys and Girls Club!
A is for Adventures and there has certainty never been a shortage of them with the Boys and Girls Club! Our members and staff have hiked trails, mountains, and hoodoos; rafted and kayaked down rivers and rapids; and rode both horses and zip-lines through dense forest paths. We’ve slept in bunks, teepees, tents, lean-tos, and log cabins. We’ve walked high ropes and low ropes, taken aim at archery, and carried our canoes like the voyageurs. Our current members might not even know it, but they walk in the footsteps of some of the earliest members when we visit our favourite places like the Calgary Zoo, Kananaskis, Jasper, and Drumheller.
In the past 35 years, we have taken over 5,000 children and youth to at least 17 places all over Alberta. Whether it be to Head- Smashed-In Buffalo Jump for a lesson on history or a day trip to Elk Island Park for a dip in the lake, there are not many trails to adventure that our members have not blazed!
This week’s Memory Lane Monday is brought to you by the letter B! What would our Club be without the beautiful buses that take us to school, to celebrations, and on countless of those adventures we spoke about last week?!
Our first bus was sponsored by Dow Chemical and that 12 passenger van served us well for many years. It carried us safely to far off places and was a comfy spot to rest our heads after a long day.
As the Club grew in size, our buses followed suit and remained an important part of our daily routine! Our current favourite mode of transportation is our white Boys and Girls Club branded bus which came to reality through generous donors, Noyen Construction, Gallason Industrial Cleaning Services, Heartland Ford, Dehr’s Water Service, Home Depot, and other individual community members. Earlier this year, members of our club even held a naming contest for our newly donated yellow bus! After a vote by staff, kids, and youth, “Buster” was officially welcomed into the Boys and Girls Club bus family!
As much as we love our busses, we love our bus drivers even more! Thank you for your kindness and smiles, getting us to our destinations, and always turning up the radio when our favourite songs come on! A special thank you to Ray and Lorna Stonehouse. Ray drove the bus for five years, making sure our members safely got to and from school everyday.
C is for Community! Our children and youth have had so many amazing opportunities to get involved and be a part of what makes the community of Fort Saskatchewan so great! From hosting dances, dinners, and fundraisers to participating in city events, parades, and celebrations, members have been able to show off their skills while learning how meaningful community participation can be. We are so thankful to be in a place where citizens have embraced all that we do with such enthusiasm and support!
This week's #MemoryLaneMonday is all about children and youth achieving their dreams! We thought about listing all the different programs and services we've offered and continue to offer since opening our opening 35 years ago that help children and youth achieve their dreams. But instead, we've decided to share the stories of two former Club kids turned staff members and the impact BGC has had in their lives!
Fund Development and Marketing Coordinator, Erin's story:
My name’s Erin and I’m a staff member at BGC Fort Saskatchewan. While I may work here now, I first started coming to the club when I was in the second or third grade. I came for the same reason a lot of kids do; my parents both worked and I needed a place to be after school where they knew I would be safe, encouraged, and surrounded by positive role models.
Now I was a pretty shy kid amongst my peers so my favourite thing to do was hang out in the art area where I could just color and craft and hang with one of my favourite staff members, Janet. Well it didn’t take long for another girl, now one of my long-time best friends, to take me under her wing and show me that there was way more cool stuff happening at the Club than just art. I learned to cook, I learned to sew, I learned how to babysit, heck, I even learned to play the drums and recorded a song! And somewhere in the midst of all that, I learned not to worry so much about being shy.
As I grew a little older, my focus shifted from program participant to enthusiastic volunteer! I spent a few weeks in the summer volunteering as a junior camp leader. I helped facilitate a girl power group. I served pizza at the U2 concert for a fundraiser. And as many other past and present youth can relate, I took several shifts with the BBQ, now the Urban Street Grill, selling hotdogs at the famers market and other community events.
I really do credit the Club for helping to bring the leader out of me and helping me to achieve my dreams and goals in life. I was able to apply for a Boys and Girls Club scholarship when I was in high-school which helped support me when I went on to post-secondary and then during that time in my undergrad, the Club gave me an opportunity to do my internship with a local community group. After retuning to Fort Saskatchewan a couple years ago after getting my master’s degree, the opportunity came about to apply for a Fund Development and Marketing Coordinator position at the Club and I guess, as they say, the rest is history. The Club has been a huge part of my life. I am so thankful for all that it has given me and I’m even more thankful to work in a place where I have a part in helping young people build the skills and create the path to achieve their own dreams.
Children and Family Program Manager, Krystal's Story:
Heeey There, I’m Krystal & as many of you know I am currently employed with BGC Fort Saskatchewan.
What many of you don’t know is my history with BGC Fort Saskatchewan & I wanted to share some of that with you today.
My brother and I started attending the club in 2003 when we moved here from Calgary. Our parents worked 12 hour days to be able to support our family. Therefore wanted to ensure we had something to be apart of and a safe place to be outside of school and our home.
Over the years as a child and youth here I have had the opportunity to participate in many different programs and meet new friends. To name a few of my favorite memories they would be white water rafting, camping in the mountains, paint balling, dancing, endless amounts of day trips, onsite activities and challenges, wining a hula hoop contest, taking part in a “be like me tobacco free educational video”, helping run the snack shack, assisting in creating a teen lounge and so much more.
The club was somewhere I felt I belonged and was accepted. It was my second home away from home. As I got older my adventures with the club didn’t end. I than became a camp lead which allowed me to grow my skill set in leadership. Once I grew that skill set, I started volunteering on a variety of trips and events throughout high school.
Which leads me to where I am today. The club has helped me achieve my dream job and I now get to be apart of and help continue provide endless amounts of adventures, experiences and new opportunities to children, youth and their families.
I will always be thankful & the club will always hold a special place in my heart.
E is for Employment! Our Youth Employment Program has weathered the test of time and remains just as popular with teens now as it was in 1989 when we first began running it! YEP, previously known as Work Orientation Workshop and funded by the Government of Canada, provides employment training and real world on-the job experience so youth can gain skills and explore their future education and career goals. And this is all just one of three levels that make up our Youth Employment Strategy!
From early morning shifts at the bakery to helping animals at the vet clinic to supporting administrators in the office, our youth have had the chance to make their mark in all sorts of roles in the community! Thank you to Twice But Nice for generously funding the program for many years and, in the last few years, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, Rotary - Fort Saskatchewan, and Fort Saskatchewan. Thank you to all the local businesses who have welcomed and mentored our youth.
F is for Family Support.
“The Youth & Family Support Program is such a valuable resource for our community, a safe landing for youth age 6+ and families to regain focus when things seem upside down and for future planning. We work along side the skills you already possess and fill the gaps where needed to ensure you feel confident and well supported.
To say I love my job is an understatement. The variety, challenges, celebrations and overall joy I experience on a day to day basis by helping people does not feel like work to me… this is a passion of mine and I think that is key to being successful in this role.” – Youth and Family Support Worker, Leanne.
Our Youth and Family Support Program, funded through Government of Alberta, has a long history within our organization. Starting as a diversion program in 1989 aimed at educating youth to keep them out of the criminal justice and child services system, the program has continued to evolve to what it is today. What has never changed is its mission of supporting parents, caregivers, children, and youth as they deal with some of life’s biggest challenges. From one-on-one counselling, social and life skill building, support groups, financial literacy programs, educational workshops for the community, and much more, we meet families where they are at to help them thrive.
G is for Gala
This week, let us tell you a bit about our Gala. Staff and volunteers at BGC Fort Saskatchewan are experts in having fun for a purpose. We not only put this into practice everyday with our entertaining programs for children and youth which teach important life skills, we also do it each year through our annual gala! We have hosted the gala each year since 2001. It has become an important part of our organization with volunteers, staff, and community members coming together to make it a positive evening for all!
Our themes have included the 20s, 50s, 70s, and 80s, western and luau, jerseys and black and white, even Hollywood glamour. And each year, we’re blown away by attendees’ commitment to the costumes! Performances from children and youth, games and prizes, silent and live auctions, we keep things interesting to say the least! Some of our live and silent auction items have included sports memorabilia, West Jet flights, golf trips chauffeured by BGC buses, and catered dinners prepared by BGC staff (this is always a hot ticket item). Not only is the gala our biggest fundraiser of the year, it is also a chance to celebrate what we do with community members and sponsors because this event could not be possible without the numerous donors that contribute each year. The money raised from the gala goes where the Club needs it most. Over the past 19 years, we have raised approximately $650,000 which has gone towards sending children and youth to camp, purchasing a new bus, and of course, offering quality programs and opportunities for children, youth, and families.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were unable to host the 2020 and 2021 galas, but we hope to be hosting our spectacular 20th year anniversary gala in the near future!
H is for History
The letter H brings us to what ABCs of BGC is all about: our history. BGC Fort Saskatchewan got it’s start as the Fort Saskatchewan Boys and Girls Club 35 years ago in the old fire hall downtown on a cold February 1st day. 220 children, youth, parents, and community members filled the building to offer support and see what the place was all about!
Behind the scenes, there were many individuals working hard to make the opening of this space even possible. Starting in January of 1985, steps were taken and monies were approved by Town Council to open a youth center named “Teen Scene.” Due to a variety of reasons this project was unable to make a successful start. A few short months later, a public meeting was called in which town members expressed their willingness and enthusiasm to make this project work. Behind the scenes, there were many individuals working hard to make the opening of this space even possible. Starting in January of 1985, steps were taken and monies were approved by Town Council to open a youth center named “Teen Scene.” Due to a variety of reasons this project was unable to make a successful start. A few short months later, a public meeting was called in which town members expressed their willingness and enthusiasm to make this project work.
More connections where made with local business, United Way, FCSS Fort Saskatchewan, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada. After 1042 hours of volunteer labour put towards renovating the space was complete, plans for the grand opening began.
A general meeting was called and a Board of Directors was elected. We would like to thank Pauline Campeau, Don McNeill, Cecil Pierce, Shawn Hussey, Carol Buss, Maralyn Benay, Camie Hamilton, Barbara Williams, Robert Standard, Ryan Benay, Patricia Estey, Marcel Dion, Jerry Maroosis, Mary Christie, and Linda Hansen for their time and dedication.
Since that day in 1986, we have continued to build our legacy within the community and have a positive impact in the lives of many young people.
I is for inclusion. We opened our doors 35 years ago so that we could provide a safe and supportive place where every individual is listened to, respected and valued, in an environment of acceptance and inclusion.
J is for Joining Together.
What joins children, youth, parents, and caregivers together better than BGC’s fun and engaging family events?! Since our opening, we have hosted countless events including Mother’s Day Teas, Family Fun Nights, concerts, Christmas and Easter Dinners, and much more with the intention of giving families chance to come together and build positive family experiences!
K is for Kids!
Need we say more? In our Club, every kid is a kid of privilege. Kids are at the heart of everything we do, and we celebrate the unique abilities and personalities of all our members to support every kid in exploring new opportunities and reaching their potential!
L is for learning.
At BGC Fort Saskatchewan, children and youth have always been provided opportunities to learn about education, employment, life skills, and just plain cool stuff everyday.
We also understand learning doesn’t always come from a book or a classroom. Through countless hours in the OSP, summer camps, drop-in sessions, and workshops, our amazing staff and volunteers have taught young people in the community about sewing, swimming, cooking, bike safety, drumming, photography, first aid, skiing, sign language, baby sitting, gardening, and so many other topics that spark new interests and passions.
Power Up! sponsored by Fidelity Investments is our current homework and STEM program! It has allowed us to support kids with their schoolwork through the past year’s school closures and provide hands-on STEM activities to inspire a love of science, like programming robots, building functional bridges, and constructing catapults.
For 35 years, our club has promoted learning and skill building and we intend to continue for the next 35 years.
M is for Mentorship
“The in-school mentorship program at the Boys and Girls Club is a very worthwhile program… I can clearly see and feel the impact being made. It's a great feeling to see their face light up with excitement when they know you are coming to their school to hang out. I firmly believe this program gives youth a chance to grow, interact, bond and have fun with the mentors and for the mentors a chance to be a big kid again and feel that even the little time shared together can make the biggest of impacts.”
M is for mentoring. Whether it be through the official Be a Buddy and In-School Mentoring programs or informally through time spent in the building with positive staff, volunteers, and youth, BGC provides support, guidance, and connections of all types for many years.
The In-School Mentoring program saw kind, dedicated individuals connecting with their mentees in school to work on homework and recreational activities while the Be a Buddy community mentoring allowed pairs to create their own bonding activities outside of a school setting. Both programs were made possible through funding from the Government of Alberta’s 5th Generation Project.
Currently this program is not running due to Covid, but we are excited to get it officially running once more. Volunteers are always needed as there are always children and youth looking for a positive role model to support them. Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, it is a worthwhile initiative to be a part of.
N is for Non-Profit.
BGC Fort Saskatchewan became a registered non-profit organization and member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada in 1987. Since then it has been our belief that all young people can grow and develop into responsible, contributing, and self-reliant members of society. It is our goal to empower all individuals to develop healthy lifestyles, a life-long passion for learning, leadership, and life skills, and a sense of social responsibility, all through adventure, play, and discovery.
O is for the Out-of-School Program.
The Out-of-School Program, or the OSP as it is known around here, is our licenced before and afterschool care program for children ages 6-12. This is probably our most well-known program in the community with over 200 kids registered each year! Children partake in engaging and fun programs around cooking, STEM, sports, games, Lego, art, and almost any other subject you can think of!
Back in the day and back in our original building, all of our after-school programs were run on a drop-in basis for children and teens of all ages to hang-out, have a good time, and explore new interests together! We ran similar programs, but the mix in ages groups had older youth became mentors and leaders and younger children were inspired by and learned from their older peers!
Now or then, you can always find a cool activity, a delicious snack, and a smiling face.
P is for Pink Shirt Day.
Every February since 2008, BGC Fort Saskatchewan has acknowledged Pink Shirt Day by Painting the Town Pink, holding community walks and rallies, and providing programs that promote kindness and teach respect and positive relationships.
The idea of Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when two high school boys, David Shepherd and Travis Price, decided to organize a protest against the bullies who had harassed a grade 9 student in their school for wearing a pink shirt. The boys purchased and passed out shirts to the others in their school to stand behind the bullied student and express that they would not tolerate bullying in the school.
Our usual rally held at North Central Co-op was, unfortunately, unable to take place this year due to Covid-19, but community members were still able to support BGC and our efforts through donations at the till. Winner’s Way Source for Sports also ensured community members could be decked out with their own pink shirt by producing the shirts and donating the cost back to the Club.
We so look forward to hosting Pink Shirt Day 2022 and once again sharing with the committee what a difference kindness can make in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online
Q is for Quite the Undertaking.
Quite the undertaking… That’s exactly what BGC staff and Board Members thought when the need for a new, larger BGC building presented itself in 1997. With both the city’s population and attendance at the club growing, club leaders felt it was time to create a space that would meet the needs of all its members.
A committee made up of Board members and community members was assembled. The Build for Kids, Build a Future campaign was established. Plans were drawn up and the dream of the 10,000 square foot building was slowly becoming a reality.
Plans were in place, but the hard part was just beginning. Series of fundraisers took place across the community. Auctions were held. Grants were applied for. Partnership were created with businesses in the area. Ground broke in May 2000 and we held our grand opening a few short months later in February 2001.
It was quite the undertaking to make this project come together and it could not have happened without the leadership of the campaign team and the unwavering support from the entire community. With the open floor space, updated kitchen, cozy youth room, vibrant art space, and thrilling rock wall, the Club became a space where children and youth can feel a sense of ownership and take part in activities that make them feel engaged and accepted.
Flash forward 21 years from the completion of the building and BGC is once again in the same place: facing a raising population and even more demand for programs and services. Building a Successful Future, our current capital campaign aimed at building a second clubhouse, has been in place for multiple years now and has faced setbacks for a variety of reasons. This project will not only increase availability of all our children and youth programs, but it will also offer families on the southside of the city easier access to these programs.
Just like our first campaign, it is quite the undertaking, but we will never stop working hard to meet the needs of our members and the community!
R is for Recreation.
You name a sport or physical activity, you can bet BGC has done it. Swimming in crystal clear lakes. Skiing down fresh powder. Competing in epic floor hockey tournaments. Hitting home runs and sliding into third during baseball games. Basketball, hiking, soccer, curling, ice skating, badminton, yoga, gymnastics. Seriously, anything that gets you moving, we’ve done it all and more! Sports are not only a great way to get our members moving and physically fit, but also a great way for them to learn important life skills like teamwork, cooperation, leadership, and resilience!
S is for Steve.
If you’ve ever been a child, youth, parent, or even volunteer with BGC, you probably know Steve. He is a permanent fixture at the club. If there is something cool happening, like building a hovercraft, constructing a soap box racer, or tuning up a minibike, you can bet Steve is leading the project and getting our members involved. He fixes and donates bikes to make sure no kid is without one. He teaches members how to use the climbing wall and trains others on how to belay. He’s taught us to make rockets and to solder and you bet if there is maintenance work in the building, he is right there to help out. The thing that makes Steve so special is that not only does he get children and youth involved in these cool projects, but he takes the time to mentor and teach them. We are so lucky to have a volunteer like him.
Thank you for all that you do, Steve.
T is for Team.
Since our opening in 1986, BGC Fort Saskatchewan has been staffed by teams of positive and engaging role models. We have had staff from all sorts of backgrounds who have brought all sorts of special talents to our club and passed them on to our members. Whether they were only with us for a couple months as a summer camp leader or have been a part of organization for 35 years, like our dedicated Executive Director, each staff member has made a lasting impact in making our organization what it is today. Ask any former or current members and you can bet they have a story about their favorite staff member and the influence they had in their lives.
U is for Urban Street Grill.
What started in 1994 as Jobs R US, a way for youth to help out in the community by doing odd jobs, evolved over time to the hot dog cart which then became our beloved Urban Street Grill Program. The Urban Street Grill is a staple of our Youth Employment Strategy. Each summer, youth interview for their chance to be a part of this fun and educational work experience program where they have the opportunity to run a mobile barbecue. They learn about food handling, safety, and the importance of customer service while selling a variety of tasty eats at locations around Fort Saskatchewan. We couldn’t have done it without Dow Canada who donated the hot dog cart that made this program possible.
V is for Volunteers.
BGC Fort Saskatchewan could truly not run without the dedication and hardwork of our amazing volunteers. Our organization has a large pool of willing and energetic community members who generously donate their time and skills to our programs and keeping our building up and running. Some of our volunteers have been with us since we first opened and continue to play a vital role. Many of our member families give back as a way to show thanks and take ownership over their place with the club. Selling 50/50 tickets at hockey games, sitting on our Board of Directors, working directly with kids and youth, and so much more. We look forward to being able to host our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner once again so we can all come together to celebrate your efforts.
W is for the Walter Buck Memorial Golf Tournament.
This tournament means a lot to us at BGC as Walter Buck was a strong figure in the community and a big supporter of the work we did with kids and youth. He was the MLA in our region and made special effort to be a part of BGC. He cut the ribbon at our grand opening in February 1986 and continued to attend fundraisers and community events through the years. Before Mr. Buck’s passing, Fort-in-View was also the location of the Boys and Girls Club Pro-Am Golf Tournament. Starting in 1988, local celebrities and amateurs came together “fore” a good cause and had a “hole” lot of fun doing it. After his passing in 2013, it was a clear choice to rename the tournament in his honor. Every summer since, with the support of dedicated sponsors, we have held the Walter Buck Memorial Golf Tournament at Fort-in-View to raise funds for our organization and keep Mr. Buck’s legacy in our hearts.
Events like these not only play a part in helping our Club fulfill its mission of providing a safe and supportive environment for children and youth to overcome barriers and develop confidence and skills for life, it is also a way to share this important mission with the community. BGC hopes to be continuing this long-standing tournament next summer.
X is for Xtreme.
Xtreme might not be the word that what first comes to your mind when you think about what is offered at our club, but as soon as you lay eyes on our indoor rockwall, you know we’re into some pretty cool stuff around here. BGC has been giving members the chance to take part in extreme opportunities and adventures since 1986. Heck, our first summer, we loaded up the van and took a group of awesome teens on a 4-day hiking and rafting trip in the mountains! Since then we have continued our thrill seeking through many of our programs and summer camps! Downhill skiing, white water rafting, hockey, rock climbing, hiking, rollerblading, archery, tailriding, paintballing, and waterskiing are just a few of the xtreme activities that we have gotten up to over the years. We hope to keep giving children and youth in our community these wild opportunities for an xtremely long time!
Y is for youth.
Youth are a huge part of what we do here and were a driving force behind the creation of BGC in 1986. Even back then, parents and community members could see a need for a safe and structured place where young people could spend their free time and feel like they belonged. Once we opened, it didn’t take long before that old firehall building was the site of dances, concerts, and events; always filled to the brim with laughs and the wonderful energy of teenagers. And they did more than just have fun. Leadership, work experience, and skill building programs allowed for youth to take on roles as mentors both in the Club and out in the community. Some of these youth are still with us today, now as parents, sharing their special connection to the organization with their children.
Z is for Zillions of Reasons Why We Love BGC
Everyone has their own reasons why they love the club. We thought we would share quotes from BGC members who have shown us some love and warmed our hearts this past year...
"Everyone should be involved in this Club! The staff listen and you are never treated as just another kid/parent. They take the time to individualize experiences for our youth and treat them all as individuals. Not easy to do when you have so many faces to keep straight, but they do it! It is the perfect place to learn community service and accountability. "
"Being a part of the Youth and Family Support Program was educational, motivating, and made me feel grateful. It made me want to make some big changes and make listening, empathy, patience, and connection way more of a priority."
"My first experience was working at the Urban Street Grill and it was great! I had tons of fun and it was very educational. I learned a lot from the Safe Handling course and it definitely boosted my customer service skills, being out there with real people. It helped me get out of my comfort zone and talk to people more than I was used to."
“I would definitely recommend my friends to do the Youth Employment Program, it was a great experience from beginning to end.”
"I just wanted to take a moment to thank-you for making the effort to put together such amazing activity kits for the children of Fort Saskatchewan. This has been such a challenging time & it really helped me feel resiliency as a parent knowing there are such caring partners in our community. Yesterday evening we put together the new puzzle as a family, my daughter and her Dad drew pictures with the glitter glue & this morning we read her new books. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for helping us create these moments."
"The Project Backpack Program has not only helped our family financially, but when my son was assisting making the bags, it helped give him a purpose in life."
"This has been a challenging year. Thank you for taking our children's safety as priority while still providing them with meaningful experiences throughout these trying times.”
For 35 years, BGC has been supporting children, youth, families, and the community. and we have received that support back through volunteerism, donations, and kind words. we are proud of the work we do and the community we do it for.