BGCBigs Heads Outside

Two grants from ECF will provide dozens of families with the opportunity to get outside and learn during COVID-19 through the Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton Area

Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton Area (BGCBigs) recently received two grants from Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) for a project that was born of a eureka moment.

“I saw a commercial on television one night and children were camping in their backyard and it got me thinking,” says BGCBigs Executive Director Liz O’Neill. “Our kids that live in Capital Region Housing and some of the townhouses have small backyards. If we provided tents, kids (in large families) might get a break from each other and that might be helpful for them and each other and mom. It was that simple.”

BGCBigs is a community-supported organization committed to the healthy development of children, youth, and their families. With the onset of COVID-19, they’ve had to adapt quickly to the constantly changing landscape. They relied heavily on group activities, sports and generally just being around people. With that all having to change, they reached out to ECF for support.

The grants, $2,500 on April 30 for the ‘Camping in the Backyard’ program and the other, totalling $11,500 for ‘Activity Kits’ given on May 12, were both through ECF’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF). ECF began strategic COVID-19 granting on March 19 and established the RRF on March 25. The fund was established with $500,000 of ECF’s discretionary dollars and has doubled its impact, thanks to ECF’s generous donors and community partners.

BGCBigs’ camping program will be launched halfway through June and will see BSGCBigs volunteers visit up to 30 homes and set up tents in their backyards. These tents can be a place for youngsters to play in, to read, and just generally be outside, while offering a little protection and solace.

The activity kits are personalized for each child and filled with grade-level worksheets, school supplies, board games, puzzles, sports equipment and community resources. These kits will be a part of the camping program, but  will also be delivered to other families that have identified a need for additional resources for their children during COVID-19.

“We truly believe that this will continue for our agency to connect with our families in the community by staying in touch and offering fun activities to do while being at home,” BGCBigs’ Recruitment and Partnership Manager Jenna Brewer says.

Brewer believes that despite things being a bit difficult right now, BGCBigs is determined to continue its commitment to the community.

“Since the beginning we have adapted our agency to fit the needs of our families and youth,” she says. “We have adapted our recruitment processes to be online so that we can still recruit volunteers, we have a wellness team that connects with each of our families to check in and offer support. Our agency’s mission is to help our community and we won’t let COVID-19 stop us.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.