We, are the Champions…

Anijela Quote

Of kids! We’re channeling our inner Freddie Mercury over here to help us bring in the long weekend and kick off summer break!

But seriously, it’s no coincidence that Anijela (Annie, to us), who tells her BGC story this week, calls BGC her champion. Why? Well, in our last strategic planning process, we realized that what gets us out of bed every morning is our deeply held, and shared belief that every kid is amazing, and that with everything going on in the world today, those amazing kids need a champion.

The fact that Annie describes BGC and her BGC mentor Lee, as her Champion, simply confirms that we’re getting it right. And, our alumni stories collectively confirm that BGC has been doing that for 80 years.

Read on for Annie’s full story.

17 years. 17 is the number of years that the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC has been active in my life… and counting. Looking back now, the Fraserview Club aided me in every step of my growth as a person. My story began outside of Canada, where my parents and I immigrated to Canada to start a new life as the situations in our country were not ideal to raise a child, let alone live. Immigrating to Canada was one of the scariest, difficult, and fearful experiences a 7-year-old could have gone through. Imagine leaving everything you have behind: friends, family, everything… to immigrate to a country that you know nothing about, let alone speak the language.

The first months in Canada are what I describe as hell. All I wanted to do was move back and be with my family and friends. Being an immigrant and not speaking English and having to go to school was a real challenge for my parents and me. Every day would be a struggle to get out the door because at school I was the target of bullies. This experience lasted for months, until one evening my negativity towards Canada changed.

Lee McIsaac changed everything for me and still continues to this day to be a positive influence on me and someone I now term as family. Lee was and still is involved with the Fraserview Boys and Girls Club in engaging and promoting the healthy growth of children and youth. I remember the day so well even after 17 years have passed. It was an evening where my mother and I were at the park outside of Fraserview when what I call a “giant” came up and started to speak to me in a British accent which I did not understand. This, for a 7-year-old was scary and frightening but the gentle giant encouraged my mother to enroll me as a member of Fraserview, and this changed everything.

The Fraserview Club was crucial in my development as an individual and is still to this day what keeps me grounded and pushes me to achieve the best I can. Being at Fraserview has allowed me to develop skills that I would have never been able to successfully develop. In the first year of being there I was quick enough to pick up on the language and learn quicker, this in part was due to Lee who engaged with me through sport and encouraged me to be the best I could be. The Club members and staff encouraged me to be the best I could and this is what Fraserview Boys and Girls Club is about. The people who are involved genuinely care about the growth and development of the kids and youth and in today’s society that is hard to find. People are always busy, but Lee was one person who made a significant impact upon my life because he always took the time. That is exactly what children and youth need to be the best they can.

Without the Boys and Girls Club in my life at an early age I would have not had the experiences I have today and skills that the Club has given me. My role model to this day is still Lee and I look up to him, and bring questions or concerns that I may have. His guidance and gentle gestures are what made my experience of the Boys and Girls Club positive. Without the Club and Lee, my life would have been very different from what it is today. Positivity, encouragement, and persistence at the Club is what makes children realize that someone cares.

The Boys and Girls Club will always be a part of my life and dear to my heart as I pursue a career in law enforcement. The skills, qualities, and characteristics that the Club has developed in me have given me an understanding of how critical community and belonging is in creating a positive environment for children and youth to develop. In doing so, the values I have learnt from the Club will always remain with me and be factors that I use with law enforcement to give back to the community that has given me so much.

To sum this up a quote by Rita F. Pierson “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connections and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Fraserview, throughout my 17 years and to this day, was my champion, as was the gentle giant who pushed me to be the best I could be and significantly impacted my life in such positive ways.

– Anijela (Annie) Cizmar