This summer, BGC South East (formerly the Boys and Girls Club of Kingston and Area) operated the largest ever summer camps operation in their 28-year history. More than 4,600 local children participated in safe and developmental camps across eight sites in Kingston and area, and over 100 youth developed positive professional skills.
According to a media release from the BGC South East, an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grant of $250,000 through Trillium’s ‘Community Building Fund – Operating Stream’ provided critical relief to their continued operations. Over the last year, OTF funding ensured BGC provided over 850 developmental opportunities to children and youth every week, keeping more than 5,000 hours of community programs operational at their main site, the West End Community Centre.
“When we opened registrations in March, 85 per cent of spots were filled within days,” recalled Harold Parsons, Executive Director at BGC South East. “We were seeing firsthand the rise in community needs. So, we adjusted our plans for expanded programs. We expanded beyond Kingston to serve neighbouring communities in Loyalist, Napanee, and Frontenac.”
In response to Kingstonist inquiries, BGC shared that, pre-pandemic, they would host approximately 3,000 children in camps over the summer. “We were the only organization to offer large-scale structured and certified summer camps [in 2020]. Given the Public Health guidelines of group sizes, our service dropped to about half of our annual service. We served 1,400 children in 2020,” stated Amanda Guarino, Associate Director of Resource Development and Communications for BGC South East.
In 2021, the organization returned to a typical year, providing camp experiences for around 2,500 children. This year’s enrolment was a 50 per cent increase over BGC’s typical years, according to Guarino.
“This was the first summer in two years that hundreds of local kids were socializing again,” Parsons added. “We have definitely seen the benefit of children playing and learning with peers. We owe this year of exceptional service to our team of more than 130 frontline staff, who were the supportive and positive influence that pushed for positive changes every day.”
BGC South East will continue to build on its expanded operational capacity to meet the community’s growing needs, according to the release. Starting this Fall, BGC South East will launch a free Sports and Education league and specialized fitness and tutoring programs.
“Every child has immense potential. I am pleased that the Ontario Trillium Fund has supported BGC South East in expanding its offerings of physical activity, education and socialization as our kids emerge from the pandemic and recover from its ill effects,” said Ted Hsu, MPP for Kingston and the Islands.
As an agency of the Government of Ontario and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations, last year, The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) invested nearly $209 million into 2,042 community projects and partnerships, which included funding for the Government of Ontario’s Community Building Fund, according to the release.
“We are eager with the start of enhanced programs in physical activity and education, to meet the current needs of children and youth,” Parsons expressed.
“We want to boost these programs with volunteer engagement to bring even more community participation and inclusion. We encourage all community members to learn more about our volunteer opportunities and how to get engaged with our programs.”
For more information on programs, volunteering, and registration, please visit bgcsoutheast.ca.
To learn more about the Ontario Trillium Foundation, visit otf.ca.