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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

THANK YOU for your support of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada!!  Because of you, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada is able to provide opportunities for youth like Doug. Doug is a member of our National Youth Council, which provides opportunities to youth from across Canada – enabling them to gain new skills and build confidence through leadership opportunities.

See below for Doug’s story about his participation in this year’s National Youth Conference in Winnipeg, MB – and how Boys and Girls Clubs are helping youth find achieve their full potential.


A beautiful thing happened on the campus of the University of Manitoba in May. Two hundred young people from all over the country gathered to fuse cultures and learn from one another. As a member of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada’s  National Youth Council, I was one of the group responsible for developing the themes and executing workshops for the Fusion 2015 youth forum. This was an amazing opportunity—being a part of the youth council has been the greatest thing ever!

I organized a workshop to teach kids how to find a voice using tie-dye. In the 1970s, teenagers used tie-dye as a form of artistic expression and rebellion, but I chose tie-dye mainly because it was relevant to me. In a way, I never really had a voice until I discovered it. When I was younger I was shy, but after I walked into a shop and bought a tie-dye shirt, things changed for me. That shirt gave me confidence. I decided to learn how to make them.  The workshop at this year’s conference ended up being amazing . . . everyone was extremely engaged and very knowledgeable about social situations happening in the world, like the #blacklivesmatter campaign. I got everyone to brainstorm ideas and write down things that they had seen on the news.

The conference focused on what youth are doing today to make Canada a more inclusive place. We were a group of people from diverse backgrounds and yet we were similar.  Like putting on my first tie-dye shirt, attending Fusion 2015 and being a part of the National Youth Council has changed me.  After meeting everyone and hanging out, I started to get more comfortable with who I am. I started to realize that anything and everything is possible! Being given  responsibility is a proving ground for finding your potential. The Boys and Girls Club took a chance on me and gave me a chance to prove that I can lead. I have potential.

What do you think? Are you interested in more information about how you can support Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada? Please get in touch – or 1-844-477-7272 x232.

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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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“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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Organization Information

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

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

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