The following story was written by Heidi Carl, Director of Programs:
I want to tell you about a family who attended one of our Mini Club Programs. We had the opportunity to put together a Baseball team of 12 boys and take them to the JR RBI Classic in Minnesota. This is a tournament put on by Major League Baseball, in which the Jays Care Foundation was chosen to enter a team, and they chose us from all of their sites in Canada.
We chose 12 Boys from our Programs, 7 of which came from our Mini Club Program. All the boys had to write essays about a barrier that they had overcome in their life in order to be on the team! I was lucky enough that we didn’t have any staff who had coached ball before, So I got to be the Coach!! With the help of Jays Care, Saskatoon Minor Ball and our staff, we taught the Boys the Fundamentals of Baseball for 3 months, practicing every week. Now, let me tell you about Joe. Joe was 12 years old and attended one of our Mini Clubs. He lived with his Mom and brothers. Joe is Aboriginal and extremely tall for his age. The first few practices, Joe had his head down and didn’t say a word to anyone. If you asked him something, it had to be a yes or no questions, so he could nod. Otherwise, he wouldn’t answer.
It was very noticeable that Joe had not participated in any organized sport or extra-curricular activity, with the exception of gym class at school. He lacked hand eye coordination and balance. He would often trip while jogging or shuffling. He had a difficult time catching a ball or holding a bat. When it came time to start filling out paperwork for passports and getting permission to take Joe out of the country, his mom told me that Joe’s Dad was in jail and she wasn’t sure she could get his signature and wasn’t sure that she wanted him knowing where they were. As I had mentioned Joe is really tall, taller than I am. He has long arms and long legs, perfect for pitching. I approached Joe about trying to pitch. At this time, he had started saying yes and no rather than nodding. We had told all the boys that they had to pitch. Joe goes up to pitch and it was amazing. He was amazing! But was no convincing him to pitch in a game.
As we progressed through the 3 months, we watched these boys become a team. If one of them got hurt, they rallied around each other. Joe, in his silence, showed that he cared by putting his arm around a boy if they were hurt or upset. Even though Joe hardly said a word, he quietly became a part of the team. His Dad got released from jail, signed the paperwork necessary and started attending all practices. When we got to Minnesota, Joe started speaking in full sentences. He still spoke with his head down, but he was talking!!
Joe improved his hand eye coordination and balance by leaps and bounds, as his skills improved, so did his confidence. Joe pitched in Minnesota, Joe talked in Minnesota, Joe had an experience of a lifetime in Minnesota, which was amazing! But the best part of his experience came after…
We went to Minnesota last July and in August, when Jays alumni came to Saskatoon to run their super camps, the Team was presented with Jerseys at Cairns Field. Joe showed up with his Mom and Brothers. Joe looked me in the eye, Joe talked to me, Joe was happy to see me and actually gave me a half a hug. I’m still not at the best part of this..
After the boys were in Baseball Camp, I sat with his mom. She said, I just have to thank you for all of this. I told her I was full of thanks and I wasn’t accepting any more..
His mom said, No, you don’t understand! Not only has this changed Joe’s life, this has changed our lives. Joe wouldn’t go outside after we got home and hang out, he would go straight to his room. The only thing Joe used to ask me, was what’s for supper. Joe didn’t have any friends. Now he talks to me, he talks to his brothers and their relationship has changed, he goes outside and hangs out with his friends. He talks to us and before this, I didn’t realize how it was affecting our family until things changed. This past month has been amazing. I won’t ever forget what this has done for my family.
We gathered the team together in April of this year, we had a regional Conference here in Saskatoon and the Boys were being recognized in front of all the people attending the conference. We took a team photo afterwards and Joe was standing beside me as the crowd was giving the boys a standing ovation, he was slouching a bit. I whispered to him, hey Bud, stand up tall, they are cheering for you, be proud! He looked me in the eye, had a big grin on his face, stood up tall and said, I know!!
We are not Jays Care Foundation, we are not Major league Baseball, but change does start here… it leads us to this possibility. If it weren’t for the Mini Club Program, this would not have been possible for those 12 Boys, but especially Joe, whose confidence, courage and determination has been forever changed. Together, we have created that possibility for Joe and his family.
The following story was written by Wanda, Executive Director. It was written for our Annual United Way application & it happened while she was taking a group from the United Way on a tour of the Pleasant Hill Clubhouse:
The story that I want to share with you is the story of Memphis. Some of you may have met him on the day that the United Way’s “Seeing is Believing” tour visited our Pleasant Hill Clubhouse.
Our Club Director and her assistants always meet the kids that attend our Clubhouse at Pleasant Hill School as soon as the bell rings. They then take the kids to the school gym for some games and physical activity or head back to KAP. They usually stop in the school playground for a while on their way back. This year, each day when our group stopped at the school playground, an unsupervised little boy around 6 years old was also there at the playground. Each day, our Club Director, Hayley would talk to him and invite him to play with the kids. Each time she talked to him, he would look at his shoes and not say anything. Hayley started giving him registration forms for his parents to fill out, but he never brought them back. Hayley kept talking to him every day at the playground, and soon she started noticing that he was peeking into the windows of our lower level program space at KAP House after the group left the playground. One day on the playground, he finally spoke to Hayley – and the first words that he said to her were “Are you going to hit me?”
Finally, after giving him 36 registration forms, Memphis appeared at the Clubhouse. That was the day of the “Seeing is Believing” tour. When the bus arrived at KAP House that day, I went to the door first to lead the United Way group in. There was a little boy at the door with a registration form in his hand. It seemed like he couldn’t open the door, so I asked him if he needed some help. He just looked down at his shoes. I asked him if he would like to go in to Boys & Girls Club. He kept looking down at his shoes. I then asked him if he would like to see Hayley. He kept looking at his shoes and then he nodded. I opened the door and took him downstairs to see Hayley. Memphis arrived at the Clubhouse on October 18 and he hasn’t missed a day since. He arrives every day with a smile on his face and according to Hayley is “happy as a clam!” One day, she felt someone pinch her as her back was turned. She turned around to see who had done it and there was Memphis with a big smile on his face and he said to her “I love you Hayley”.
This is what Boys & Girls Clubs of Saskatoon does each and every day and that is called success!
Connie, St. Michael Community School Principal:
“We feel very fortunate to have developed a strong partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of Saskatoon. Their organization has provided before and after school programs in our school to allow our parents and grandparents to go to school, or work, with the reassurance that their children are being well cared for. In most cases, these parents would not be able to do this if this program did not exist. In addition, the program has been offered free of charge to remove the cost barrier as well. We are grateful to the Boys & Girls Club for their work in accessing funds through grants to allow the program to run.
We believe that our before and after school program offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Saskatoon supports our Urban Aboriginal communities by promoting self-reliance and increasing life choices for Aboriginal people living in urban centres. Our program is a true example of a successful initiative that engages partners and affects long term change. Without the program, many of our parents would not be able to be employed or go to school due to the barrier of quality, affordable child care.”
"Kids that attend our program are provided with a caring adult that encourages active play and participation. In doing this, we have the opportunity to see them discover what they are passionate about - whether it be a sport, art, reading, music, building things - and challenge themselves in new ways in a safe and inclusive environment. Our kids form new friendships that provide positive support in program, at school and in the community".
“On Monday, I played hide and seek with children. And, we have joyful dance time. I danced with children. At that time, the children look like very happy and free. I think that this Boys and Girls Club are doing very good work for children”.
Quotes from our children:
“Are you going to hit me?” asks a 6 year old boy who attends our program.
“My Mommy and Daddy are both in jail & I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight” asks a 7 year old girl who attends our program.
"I get to play with my friends and do stuff I don't have at home like crafts and colouring and play outside" - Showna, 7 years old, program participant
"I gots a place where I getta have fun and I don't gotta watch my baby brother. He stinks." - Kaytlyn, 6 years old, program participant.
When we hear chilling statements, questions or endearing, charming quotes like these that come from children, we know why we’re running a program in the Pleasant Hill community and there is no question that we will continue to do so.
“This program has many activities that really have a significant effect in developing children skills and self-confidence. My son is very motivated to join the program and to share with other students. The activities that they do, instead of sitting alone in the morning and after school, it gives him a good opportunity to develop new friends.”
Pat - Vice Principal:
“The Boys & Girls Club has been a true gift for many of our students whose parents work long hours. Some of our students would be left sitting in the boot room or outside before and after school if not for the Boys & Girls Clubs.”
“I know it is likely hard when you have so many kids to deal with every day…but from my perspective…I just simply cannot imagine where we would be or what our lives would be like if we hadn’t found you all. I am just so utterly thankful for each of you and what you put up with and what you give to my son every single day. And despite what he often puts you through you greet him with positive attitudes, smiles, a sense of humour and respect. You are goddesses and I worship what you do…thank you so very much. Your support has contributed to our family quality of life. When we started at the centre a year ago last summer…my marriage was falling apart…my son was unhappy, uncontrollable…I had started a new job…I felt like our world was chaos and so dysfunctional…and I felt helpless. Now over a year later…my marriage is not falling apart, we are living happily together…and working on things. My son can still be a handful, but we are coping and the good times and the good days have trickled over more often into good weeks…and we laugh more and we have fun more. And while we are never likely going to experience “smooth/normal sailing”…we are equipped to take on life, to accept the challenges and obstacles ahead…and this is in large part because of YOUR SUPPORT. I can never possibly put into words how thankful I am for you and what you do”.
Kari & Jason:
“We choose this preschool because of its focus on learning. Mrs Eager and Mrs Duncan encourage each student to reach their highest potential. The performances that the students put on twice a year allows them to showcase what they have learned and gain confidence in themselves. Although there is playtime it is always purposeful play to help them develop or improve on a skill set. The structure of the classroom, routines and focus on learning has greatly helped to prepare my son to transition to kindergarten. The staff is excellent. Mrs Eager is very organized, efficient and approachable. If you have a question, concern or just wondering how your child is doing she is always willing to meet with you. She has a good grasp of each student and what they are capable of doing. We appreciate how she challenges each individual student. We are astounded by how much our son has learned. We are so thankful for Mrs Duncan. All last year she helped our son to settle into preschool. He is very nervous and shy in new situations. He also had a problem separating from us. Mrs. Duncan offered lots of support, ideas, patience and help in helping him to overcome this. She is a true blessing. We cannot say enough good thing about the preschool program. We have recommended it to many family members and friends”.