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Boys and Girls Clubs: serving kids in a time of crisis

Strange. Unprecedented. Uncertain. Whichever label we choose to describe these times, the subtext is the same, a need for stability.

That is where charitable organizations in Cape Breton/Nova Scotia and across the country step in. Nonprofits are essential to communities, and lifelines and community hubs for our most vulnerable populations. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Cape Breton is one of those lifelines and community hubs. Our role during this pandemic has not changed, except that the needs of those vulnerable populations have grown exponentially.

Nationally, the Boys and Girls Club movement has served Canadian kids and youth and their families for more than a century. We have navigated world wars, the Great Depression, economic recessions, and now, a pandemic. Through it all, we have been there for kids and teens.

Our Clubs help young people experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life. The backbone of our organization is our people: our exceptional and dedicated program staff spend time with young people. They are program facilitators, listeners, and role models. The time they spend with our Club kids is time spent in breakfast, early morning, after school, youth, education, and leadership programs. Through our programs, through relationship-building and mentoring, we strive to create a sense of belonging. We let kids be free to be themselves despite their daily challenges. It is one of our core values.

At a time when children and youth need our organization the most, our facilities are closed. With social isolation and physical distancing, the norm, a sense of belonging and connection have become even more important—and even more difficult to maintain.

Young people are struggling. We have heard from our Club kids. They miss their friends. They miss their program leaders. Some parents are witnessing a deterioration in the mental health of their kids. Organizations such as Kids Help Phone are experiencing a marked increase in the need for their service. Parents are also feeling the pressure, and experts predict things will get tougher. As physical distancing measures relax, the demands will be greater. More people will be out of work, or feeling financial strain, and more will be looking to charitable organizations for help.

The good news is that the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cape Breton is ready to guide kids through the pandemic, to help them understand what has happened to the world, and to offer them stability, alongside their parents and families. Our programs are rooted in supporting kids’ mental health, in helping ease anxieties and fears, in navigating the effects of trauma. In short, we know what kids need.

A recent study at Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg shows that young people who participate in Club programs make healthier choices and are better protected from negative social outcomes. And an outcome study spearheaded by Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC in Vancouver demonstrated that Club members are better at establishing positive relationships and building interpersonal skills, and have a stronger sense of belonging and acceptance.

Boys and Girls Clubs are adapting, as we always have—but our focus remains the same.

Here in Whitney Pier and the CBRM, our Club has operated for 31 of years. Daily we service 100 youth and annually we serve 28,000 kids and teens. And more than ever, we are committed to families in our community.

Despite limited resources, our Club has been tackling food insecurity by delivering food and critical care packages to families, running virtual programming for kids and teens, connecting with young people online to offer support and operating community resources information.

We have always tailored our programs and services to meet the needs of Whitney Pier and the CBRM, and we will continue to do so. In the midst of this pandemic, our community’s kids are fragile. The pandemic has created budgetary and operational pressures on our Club. It is critical for our organization to have the strength and capacity to reopen our doors and adapt our programs to meet the evolving needs of children.

We are ready to serve.

If you would like to support us, please consider donating at

Thank you.

Executive Director

Boys and Girls Clubs of Cape Breton

Whitney Pier Youth Club

John Wolodka


Boys and Girls Clubs of Cape Breton

Whitney Pier Youth Club

Owen Charters

President & CEO

Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada


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