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Positively impacting youth in the Battlefords

The work of an almost five-decade-old organization continues.
pumpkin Boys and Girls
The vision of BGC Battlefords is for all children and youth to discover and achieve their dreams, and grow up to be healthy, successful and active participants in society.

THE BATTLEFORDS — Nicole Combres, executive director of BGC tells the News Optimist and the organization formerly known as Battlefords Boys and Girls Club, now known as BGC Battlefords, was established in 1976.

“The intent of the organization is to provide for the recreational, cultural, educational and social needs of all children five to 14 years of age in our community. Our mission is to provide safe, supportive places where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships and develop confidence and skills for life,” said Combres.

The vision of BGC Battlefords is for all children and youth to discover and achieve their dreams, and grow up to be healthy, successful and active participants in society.

Combres said, “Operating on Treaty 6 Territory, BGC Battlefords welcomes all children and youth from the community and surrounding areas, including all financial circumstances, socio-ethnic backgrounds and abilities. Our members are as diverse as the communities we serve … BGC Battlefords provides a safe place to go, positive role models and quality recreational and educational activities. All of our programs include nutritious snacks and access to fun, enriching activities and caring adults who support our members in becoming healthy, responsible, compassionate and competent individuals.”

The organization employs 62 staff. Activities and programming are enhanced by 69 volunteers committed to the organization, its programs and events.

“We served a total of 944 participants, with 765 of those being children and youth through direct program/service delivery.”

Each year, BGC Battlefords offers two streams of summer programming. The first is their fee-for-service, registration-based Summer Adventure Day Camps. The weekly camps operate during the months of July and August, providing children ages five to 14 a fun, safe and enriching place to go while on summer break. The program runs weekdays, excluding stat holidays, from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“During that time, all children are provided a balanced breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack at no additional charge. Each week has a unique theme and activities for each day will follow the theme. Field trips take place every Thursday and follow the theme of the week. Children have plenty of opportunity to enjoy and play in the warm summer weather, put their creativity to use during crafts and challenge their minds with educational activities,” affirms Combres.

When the weather permits, children also get the opportunity to play in the splash park. Whether children attend one day or the entire summer, Combres says they are sure to have a great experience.

“The second stream of summer programming offered by our organization is our summer parks drop-in program. During the months of July and August, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday [to]Friday (excluding stat holidays), BGC Battlefords offers drop-in programming at Centennial Park, Kinsmen Park and Senator Herb Sparrow Park. This program is free of charge and is available to any child between the ages of 5-14,” states the executive director of BGC Battlefords.

The summer park drop-in program is strictly outdoors so only operates when weather permits. Children can be part of crafts and experiments to keep their minds thinking and their bodies active. Water features of all three locations are also incorporated, and available for this second stream of programming. Parents/guardians are welcome to drop their child off and pick them up at any point during the program. Nutritious and balanced snacks and a bagged lunch are provided.

The organization says one of the highlights of the past year definitely includes exceeding pre-pandemic attendance with the number of children and youth attending club programs higher than ever before.

“While the number of overall BGC participants rose 26 per cent since 2022, so did the number of members who received direct program service delivery (15 per cent increase). Through over 33,000 Club visits, 765 unique members received over 49,000 snacks and meals,” affirms BGC Battlefords.

Some of the challenges for the organization in the past year include a 41 per cent increase in visits and a 44 per cent increase in nutrition provided, resulting in significant operational costs.

“Due to increased numbers of members attending our programs, increased staff were required, resulting in unexpected and unbudgeted staffing costs. The rising costs of food also led to budget overages. Like other businesses and organizations across the country, recruitment and retention continued to be a struggle,” said Combres.

Beginning in 2022, BGC Battlefords and clubs across the country embarked on an impact journey – the Learning & Impact Project (L&I Project). The purpose of the L&I Project is to prove and improve the impact of clubs across Canada, individually and collectively, through evaluation.

“Through the L&I Project, our goal is to ensure we are providing the best services and programs to our community that we can, and [to] be able to share with you the impact we are making. The continuation of our learning and impact journey in 2023 reinforced the impact being made and proved that, because of our club, children and youth are more physically active, more comfortable being themselves, more confident in their futures, more excited to try new things, better prepared to do their schoolwork, more confident in their abilities and more comfortable leading. This truly is unbelievable Impact,” exclaims the BGC Battlefords executive director.