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Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada-Support Young People

by Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada-Support Young People
Nelson Lang
Nelson Lang

When he was 6, Nelson Lang discovered something in his backyard that would transform his life. His house backed right onto the Eastview Boys and Girls Club (now the Boys and Girls Club of Durham) and it became his home away from home.

“It kept me out of trouble and kept me going to the right place,” says Lang, who moved to Oshawa with his brother and father after his parents separated when he was 5.

“My dad was working a lot and then I was on my own at 16 because he kicked me and my brother out. In Grade 11, I was living at a buddy’s house, trying to get through school.”

Even then, the Club was always there for him, teaching Lang the life lessons one typically learns at home.

“You can go down a bad path or a good path and it’s up to you which path you decide.”

Lang chose a good path.  He worked part-time at a pizzeria as he finished high school and later opened up one of his own when he was just 22.  But national pizza chains were beginning to expand and dominate and Lang began to think it was time for something healthy and different in a competitive fast-food market.

Searching for the answer, Lang and his business partner were inspired by Toronto’s culinary mosaic and envisioned combining diverse ethnic foods into one concept. Their goal was to make and serve great food with love and when they found a lease in Kingston, Ontario, close to the university, the first Pita Pit restaurant was opened.

“The passion in the beginning was just to make sure the one store did really well. Then it just started to snowball; there was so much interest in it,” Lang says. “In seven years, we’d opened up 200 stores—it just exploded.”

The Pita Pit franchise continues to grow and opened its 500th store in July 2014, with restaurants in far flung places like Australia, Dubai and India. Lang says he remains true to his vision: serving healthy, quality sandwiches in a fast-food market with good people to run each location.

Now a successful businessman with a global company, Nelson reflects on what he learned while growing up with the Boys and Girls Club and credits learning the value of teamwork.

“You learn to play together as a team or as a unit, or you don’t win. And that’s no different in life.”

The Club remained a constant for Lang growing up, no matter what changed around him. He remembers one staff member, Neil Keilans, as “an amazing man and mentor” who stayed in touch with Lang and years later, attended Lang’s wedding.

Now, with four daughters of his own, Nelson is grateful for the “good, safe environment” the Club provided for him. “As I look back, I hope that my kids can be in the same kind of environment the Club gave me.”

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Shanel - Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough
Shanel - Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough
Shanel credits the Boys and Girls Club youth councils with her decision to study special event planning at George Brown College.

“The Ontario Youth Council is where I discovered that I loved planning,” says the 19-year-old member of Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough and first-year college student. “It’s my passion!”

Shanel is a National Youth Council member and part of the committee planning the Council’s biennial forum, which is open to Boys and Girls Club youth from across Canada and is being held from May 6th to 10th in Winnipeg. 

Inspired by the diversity of youth in Clubs across the country, the National Youth Council is calling this forum Fusion. The goal is for young people to explore and develop an understanding of the different cultures that make up Canada’s colourful, vibrant mosaic. The planners chose the keynote speaker—comedian, actor and writer Sabrina Jalees—for her underlying message about celebrating difference.

Shanel is excited to be facilitating a large workshop in Winnipeg that celebrates the vibrancy and variety of cultures in Canada. “What I like about being on the planning committee is seeing young people work together to make the conference a success.”  

Shanel participates in monthly teleconferences to brainstorm the forum agenda and workshop topics, which cover a range of youth issues, from nutrition and health to sexual identity. She also attended OASIS, the 2013 national youth forum held in Kamloops, British Columbia.  

As with this year’s forum, youth are able to travel from Clubs across Canada thanks to WestJet, who makes a direct impact on the experiences of young people with its Gift of Flight airline tickets.  WestJet has donated over 3,000 flights to Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and our member Clubs since 2007.

“The fact that we get to fly for free is amazing,” says Shanel, “because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to attend.” 

Facilitating and planning large events like the biennial forum have only added fuel to Shanel’s planning fire.

“Planning is all about bringing people together,” she says. “The workshops and activities give you an opportunity to hang out with people that you might not ordinarily meet or who might not run in the same social circles as you.” 

This encapsulates the experience for Shanel, who says the best part of the forum is meeting the other delegates. 

“The goal,” she says, “is to have youth from across the country engage with each other, then return to their respective cities and make a positive impact in their communities and their Clubs.

“The young people are brilliant, strong-minded, and positive. It really feels like a meeting of world leaders!”
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Dhruv_Snow
Dhruv_Snow
“It wasn’t really cold. It was only about minus 10.”
 
Dhruv sounds like a winter-savvy Canadian talking about his first time on skis. You’d never guess that the 9-year-old had just moved to Edmonton from Bangalore, India a few months earlier.

Along with nearly 100 others from Edmonton area Boys and Girls Clubs, Dhruv got an unforgettable introduction to skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of Snow Valley, thanks to Canadian Tire Jumpstart Get In The Game.

Most of the youngsters had little or no experience skiing and snowboarding but they all overcame the first-time jitters with encouragement from Club staff and a lesson made possible by Get In The Game.

Dhruv learned how to master the execution of a snow plow and navigate the snowy slopes—an exciting experience that would likely have been unimaginable a few short months before.

Going to a ski hill to rent equipment and take a lesson is beyond the reach of many families with children and some young people would never get this kind of opportunity without Get In The Game to help overcome barriers to participation in  sports and recreation.  
Clubs across the country offer this program to expand opportunities for young people, including for a growing number of newcomers to Canada, giving them a chance to try different types of organized physical activities.

In Moncton, for instance, recent immigrants represent nearly half the Club’s membership—up from less than 3 percent in 2008. The Boys & Girls Club of Moncton’s Learn to Skate program is one of the ways they help newcomer youth transition to a new culture and country while they learn to love winter.

In partnership with the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area, 50 youth a year are referred to the Club for support, connections and belonging.

Just like Dhruv, Moncton’s new members have fun and make friends as they also develop their language skills, confidence and understanding of their new home, which helps the whole family feel accepted and learn their way around. 

Dhruv is at the McCauley Clubhouse almost every night after school and the staff are delighted to see his initial shyness turn into confidence. His parents are also actively involved with Club activities and Dhruv’s mom is teaching the Club about the delicious variety of Indian cooking. 

“Before, I didn’t know there are different types of snow and that you can only make a snowman with a certain kind,” he says sagely.  This winter, Dhruv is ready. 
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Asma - Future Shop Scholarship Recipient
Asma - Future Shop Scholarship Recipient

September marks the start of a new school year for most of Canada’s children and youth. They’ll be renewing friendships in familiar hallways or discovering a new learning environment with excitement and a little nervousness.

After school, young people will pass through the doors of their Boys and Girls Club where caring staff will encourage them to do their best and aim high. At our clubs, children and youth have a chance to uncover their talents and find mentors to help them explore the many paths ahead—a high school diploma, post-secondary education, an apprenticeship, a first job, a possible career. This fall, our Rogers Raising the Grade program will be offered in 42 locations so high school students can get help, get online and get ahead. It’s exciting to see the growing impact of this program as more and more youth get access to the tools and support they need to excel in the classroom.

Clubs are places where young people can build skills that complement and reinforce what they’re learning in school. Thanks to partners like Kal Tire, Fidelity Investments Canada, Capital One Canada, CIBC, Sears Canada and Rogers Youth Fund, children and youth can delve into a skilled trade or computer programming, develop leadership and learn how to give as volunteers in their community. This year, we will also be offering youth a chance to build skills in science, technology, engineering, art, design and math with a new program supported by Fidelity Investments.

An interest in learning goes well beyond the classroom—it supports educational achievement and a lifelong curiosity. The health and well-being of Canada’s young people is tied to their education. It expands the number and depth of opportunities that are open and impacts how self-sufficient, healthy, and happy they will be as adults.

Together with our national partners, Boys and Girls Clubs make a difference to so many who face the greatest barriers to learning and completing high school. We inspire and support young people and help them graduate and go further. Many of our youth will be the first in their family to attend post-secondary education. And that’s something to be proud of.

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Camp Old Navy
Camp Old Navy

We are well into the hot summer weather and Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada are busy enjoying every minute of it! Here are a few updates on what’s been happening in our Clubs:

Jays Care Foundation Covers all the Bases

Jays Care Foundation is providing Boys and Girls Clubs free admission to 25 baseball camps across Canada organized by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, in partnership with Baseball Canada and Little League Canada. The Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League is a popular program at over 25 Boys and Girls Clubs in 55 communities across Canada and for some youth, it’s the first time they have ever swung a bat or run the bases. Young players have the opportunity to learn from Major League All-Stars like Roberto Alomar, Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Duane Ward. Jays Care Foundation also offers baseball programming, coaching support and equipment to Boys and Girls Clubs to help promote physical activity and build confidence and leadership skills among children and youth from underserved areas across the country. What an amazing opportunity for our kids!

Camp Old Navy helps teens break down the barriers to employment

For a young person with a seemingly blank resume, getting that first break into the job market can be a major challenge. That’s why Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and Old Navy stores are giving youth a leg up through the summer work experience program, Camp Old Navy! Since 2005, the program has helped introduced youth to the retail sector, educating them on the different divisions while equipping teens with valuable skills and training. Participants will spend a half day at an Old Navy store shadowing staff and learning the ropes of retail management, sales and merchandising— everything from serving customers to stocking shelves to ringing in purchases. The best part? Many are able to parlay the experience into part-time and full-time employment!

Youth Changing the Way Canadians Think About Aboriginal People

It’s no secret that our youth voice is powerful and their actions can be even stronger when it comes to wanting things to change. That’s why one of our members of the National Youth Council recently flew to Edmonton to meet another group of youth. About 130 young people started a new conversation there, based on reconciliation, respect, reciprocity and relevance. They call themselves the 4Rs Youth Movement and they plan on changing the way Canadians think about their country. The scope of this partnership is unique - the youth represent 6 national Aboriginal organizations, 5 national youth-serving organizations and 3 foundations from across Canada and reflect an urgent need to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and youth. We couldn’t be more proud!

 Thank you again for donating and helping to change the lives of thousands of children and youth across Canada! We will continue to keep you updated in the months ahead!

Jays Care Foundation
Jays Care Foundation
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Organization Information

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

Location: Toronto, Ontario - Canada
Website:
Project Leader:
Bernadette Arreola
Toronto, Ontario Canada

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