A critical decline in volunteers has forced Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brother Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (BGCBigs) to re-imagine how it provides support and resources to the children and families it serves. The waitlist had simply grown beyond the Agency’s ability to meet demand and for the first time in its history, BGCBigs paused general intake to its community-based mentoring program.
“We knew it was time to innovate our traditional program structures to see if we could create a program that was more appealing to volunteers while also still meeting the vital needs of our children, youth and families,” said Christina Weichel, Marketing & Communications Manager at BGCBigs.
The result is a new pilot program called Game Changers. Designed specifically for male children, youth and volunteers — because the majority of kids on the waitlist identify as male — the hope is that Game Changers will close the gap in programs and services and make volunteering more accessible in general.
“Our volunteers tell us they have less available free time to commit to volunteering, less available income to invest in volunteering and a lack of transportation to participate in volunteering,” explained Weichel. “We took all this feedback to heart when we designed Game Changers.”
The Agency is hopeful that the accessibility and ease of Game Changers is just the thing to attract more people to volunteer again. Volunteer mentors will be paired with like-minded youth and their meetings will occur in a group setting at select locations with planned activities. There are two program options available:
Tuesdays at Caernarvon Elementary School (14820-118 St, Edmonton), where participants will engage in various programmed sports and games from 6-8 p.m.
Thursdays at West Club (16030 104 Ave, Edmonton), offering a mix of programmed sports, board games and hands-on projects from 6-8 p.m. High school students aged 16-plus are also eligible to volunteer as mentors for this program.
Unlike BGCBigs’ traditional mentoring programs, Game Changers does not require mentors to have access to a vehicle and volunteers are only required to attend once weekly, during the school year, at their chosen location (both sites are conveniently located near public transportation) and the planned activities make it easy for mentors and mentees to hang out.
“What better way to spend a Tuesday night than playing a game of basketball or a game of Dungeons & Dragons with a kid who looks up to you?”