Medavie Helping BGC Clubs Reconnect Children and Youth to Healthy, Active Living

BGC Canada

When Jeremy first arrived at BGC Dawson, he was shy and often too bashful and unsure of himself to participate in Club activities, especially team sports. He didn’t run as fast and wasn’t coordinated enough to get out on the gym floor with his peers ― or so he thought.

That all changed when staff at the Dawson Club in Montreal, Quebec learned he loved to watch hockey (a Montreal Canadiens fan, of course). They invited him to sign up for Know Better Play Better, the BGC Club’s active living program, which teaches children how to play floor hockey while encouraging them to make healthy and positive life choices.

Jeremy was hesitant. Despite his appreciation for it, he had never played hockey. At first, he sat on the sidelines or asked to keep score. Then, with encouragement from peers and his recreation program animators, he slowly began to play in the warm-up sessions. From there came practices with his animator and eventually joining the games.

BGC Dawson’s executive director, Chad Polito, says the Know Better Play Better program helped Jeremy “identify, set, and execute goals for himself that helped build his confidence while increasing his physical activity.”

BGC Dawson's floor hockey group

“Now, when it is gym time, you will find Jeremy running and participating in all kinds of team sports and games. He may not be the fastest child in his group but you will find that he has the biggest smile on his face when he is running.”

BGC Dawson Executive Director Chad Polito

Jeremy’s experience is just one of many happy stories that have emerged from BGC Clubs (formerly known as Boys and Girls Clubs) across Canada since welcoming young members back to the safe, supportive and inclusive spaces that had been in lockdown ― with funding support from partners like Medavie.

Medavie is investing $500,000 to help BGC Clubs re-engage children and youth in healthy, active living. The funding through Medavie Foundation is being used to hire staff, increase participation in healthy living programs, adapt programs and facilities for public health protocols, meet increased demand for services, and support other initiatives that will help Canadian youth get active and live well.

BGC Canada is the largest child and youth serving charitable organization in the country. BGC Clubs “work where they are needed,” serving over 200,000 Canadian kids and teens and their families in 736 locations nationwide. Through adventure, play, and discovery, the Clubs encourage and empower children and youth to develop healthy lifestyles, a life-long passion for learning, leadership and life skills, and a sense of social responsibility.

During the pandemic, COVID-19-related restrictions forced Clubs to shut their doors, lay off staff, move programming online or scale back. Clubs did their best to keep their kids connected, supported and engaged during this time, but nothing could take the place of face-to-face interactions.

“The success [of BGC Clubs] lays with in-person activities,” says Moncef Lakouas, Executive Director, BGC Moncton. “That’s what the kids need. That’s where they meet positive role models. That’s where they make friends.”

So, it was with tremendous relief and joy that Clubs like BGC Dawson and BGC Moncton — both Medavie funding recipients — re-opened their doors this fall.

“BGC Clubs are known throughout the country for their history of helping young people build healthy futures through physical activity and positive mental health, academics, job readiness, leadership skills, and more,” says Joanne Kviring, executive director of the Medavie Foundation. “Medavie is incredibly proud to help BGC Clubs reconnect with their young members and support their efforts to improve healthy, active living.”

Quantitative research studies, including by the University of Manitoba and Dialogue in Action, have shown that the more children and youth participate in Club activities, the better their health, social, and educational outcomes. It’s clear BGC Clubs make a difference.

“For over a century, BGC Clubs across the country have created opportunities that help kids and teens overcome any barriers that stand in their way—and we continue to do this work thanks to incredible support from caring companies like Medavie,” says Owen Charters, President & CEO, BGC Canada. “Investing in the well-being of young people—physically, mentally, socially, academically, and more—creates a ripple effect that benefits families, communities, and the country as a whole. We are grateful to Medavie for supporting our mission and vision.”

With deep roots in the Montreal borough of Verdun, BGC Dawson has been a safe and supportive community centre since 1959. Today, it offers a range of educational, recreational, and social programs to serve over 700 members yearly.

It’s a place where children and youth like Jeremy are “listened to, respected and valued in an environment of inclusion and acceptance.”

The funding Medavie has provided to BGC Dawson has allowed the Club to rehire five recreational program animators who had been on temporary leave during the pandemic.

“This generous support enabled us to increase our program capacity while navigating COVID-19 protocols. We are extremely grateful for this partnership and the direct impact it has made in the lives of children!”

Chad Polito
BGC story Ball Hockey 2

The funds will also help the Club deliver core BGC programs that promote healthy active living including Kid Food Nation, Respect2Connect, Cool Moves, and Basic Needs, Brighter Future.

That’s in addition to organizing physical fitness activities, such as basketball and soccer, as part of the Club’s daily program offering.

Learn about BGC Dawson | BGC Moncton | BGC Dovercourt

Removing barriers and helping youth become their best selves

Khalid first came to BGC Moncton at age 6 as a new immigrant from Sudan.

“He didn’t know any English and had yet to connect with peers. He was experiencing a new culture, a new language, a new city and a new day camp at BGC Moncton,” Executive Director Moncef Lakouas recalls.

“Although he could communicate in Arabic to peers who were also new Canadians, he faced many social barriers and pressure as he practiced a different religion than they did — this was a lot to adjust to.”

Moncef Lakouas

BGC Moncton has a 64-year tradition of helping young people discover, develop, and achieve their full potential by engaging them in activities that challenge and enrich their minds, bodies, and spirits, and nurture their self-esteem.

Overwhelmed at times by his inability to communicate his thoughts and feelings, Khalid found himself withdrawing from those activities. That’s when staff brought BGC’s mission to life, by helping him to “overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life.” Gradually, Khalid began to thrive.

He registered for the Club’s tutoring program to develop his reading and writing skills. By grade 5, he was reading Harry Potter novels. By Grade 6, he participated in the Club’s coding program where he again excelled. He was inspired to mentor new participants, even writing, editing and starring in his own “How to” coding video. This past year, he signed up for the Club’s leadership and entrepreneurship programs, which led to the creation of a product prototype and his own business — Roof Roof Dog Houses!

Khalid, now 14, has a new place to get together for recreational, educational, and social activities with his peers. Thanks in part to funding from Medavie, for the first time the Moncton Club has a room completely dedicated to programs and services for teenagers 12 and up.

Until the Medavie-funded renovations were made, the Club’s teen attendance was lower than the national average due to lack of space to offer programming geared to teens.

Medavie’s contribution through the Medavie Foundation also enabled the Club to hire two staff members supporting efforts to re-engage teens through recreational activities, conversations, and BGC Canada’s Respect2Connect program, which provides youth with the tools and techniques to develop and sustain healthy relationships.

Additionally, Medavie funding will provide 240 additional youth with an opportunity to attend the Club by expanding the frequency of the Club’s bus service, which transports members to and from BGC Moncton in the geographic area the Club reaches.

Through life-changing programs, community-based services, and relationships with peers and caring adults, BGC Clubs like Moncton are helping kids and teens develop the skills they need to succeed into adulthood.

Khalid is already paying forward the opportunities he has received. In addition to volunteering at BGC Moncton as a coding mentor, he is giving to others in the community.

“He does not yet recognize that in being a role model, being kind, volunteering, and overcoming challenges, he is already making an impact in his community at 14 years old.”

Moncef Lakouas

Learn about BGC Dawson | BGC Moncton | BGC Dovercourt

BGC Dovercourt Club

BGC Dovercourt Club in Toronto shares a similar history with the Moncton Club. Established in 1957 as a vital community resource, the Club has given more than 50,000 children and youth from all economic, cultural, and social backgrounds access to resources, supports and opportunities that enable them to overcome barriers and become their best selves.

Dovercourt Garden 1200

The demand for those services has never been greater since the pandemic, says BGC Dovercourt Club’s executive director Sheldon Taylor, noting the Club doubled the number of Thanksgiving meals it served and will fill more than 400 hampers for families during the holiday season. “In other words, there exists a need that far exceeds what used to be there.”

Medavie funds will help approximately 50 additional children attend healthy active living and recreational programs by enabling the Club to hire (or rehire) program workers. Funds will also support the Dovercourt Club’s gymnasium renewal project to replace and update the tiled floor and bleachers of the 40-year-old facility, to ensure over 600 youth have the space to be more active and healthier, and the purchase or replacement of equipment, including gym mats, ball racks, and basketball and soccer nets.

Recognizing that Club members have often been indoors and isolated for an extended period of time, the equipment will help address the lack of socialization and deprived developmental stages the youth may have experienced.

Taylor says there was a profound sense of longing among the Club’s members for a return to normalcy, so when BGC Dovercourt Club re-opened its doors the children and youth were “beside themselves” with happiness.

“They want to laugh and run and bump into each other. They are happy to have the space to do that thanks to Medavie’s support.”

Sheldon Tayor, Executive Director, BGC Dovercourt Club

Learn more

Learn more about how BGC Clubs help “all children and youth discover and achieve their dreams and grow up to be healthy, successful, and active participants in society."

And, if you’re looking for a great way to give back during this season of giving, consider donating to BGC Canada, to your local BGC Club, or ask how you can volunteer your time to support them in making the dreams of youth come true.

Our Mission is to Improve the Wellbeing of Canadians.

Medavie is a health company that oversees Medavie Blue Cross and Medavie Health Services. Together, we’re bringing Canadians better health and access to care.