TRURO – Lauren McQuaid had to wipe the tears away from her eyes after hearing the Boys and Girls Club of Truro and Colchester was chosen as the recipient of the 100 Women Who Care Truro’s September donation.
McQuaid knows all too well of the importance of the club – not only is she a team member currently, but she also grew up with the club in her life. She told those gathered about the programs and services offered, but it was telling her own story where her voice faltered slightly.
“At our club, all children are given equal opportunities, are all treated the same, and have the same access to resources and supports,” said McQuaid. “The idea of privilege is often attributed to that of money, but is really about creating environments that remove insecurities, and build up confidence in kids. At our club, every child is a child of privilege. I know this is true because growing up as a club kid, I was a kid of privilege. But not how you would think.”
McQuaid said she had a parent who loved her unconditionally, and at the club, it didn’t matter if her family was under the poverty line, or that her father was absent. It also didn’t matter she couldn’t do things with friends if they cost money, because her mother couldn’t swing it.
“At the Boys and Girls Club, I wasn’t looked at as the kid who had nothing. The people at the club saw my potential and believed in me. Before I even knew to believe in myself.”
Through the club, which started as the Truro Police Boys Club in 1964, McQuaid participated in camping and day trips. She represented the club on a national level. It took her on her first plane ride. She met two prime ministers. And she also spoke to 3,000 people in Florida about who she is and how the club helped get her to where she wants to be.
“These weren’t just my opportunities – these are opportunities for all club kids,” she said. “Without the club, I wouldn’t be able to stand here in front of you today, to tell you that I am a kid of privilege.”
As a former member, McQuaid said others have also returned to the club as young adults to give back.
“They want to be the difference in a child’s life that someone at the club was for them. They want to give back to the club and to a new generation of children what was given to them,” she said.
“Often we reminisce about club events and fun things we did, but most importantly we remember how the club made us feel.”
The club offers programs in the arts, education, technology, physical activity, and reducing food security, in the hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty. Technology programs mean children are on par with their peers, while healthy nutrition programs tackle hunger and childhood obesity rates.
“A lot of people will ask, what do you do? And it’s a hard answer. We do many things. More than anything, we believe in children and their right to be children.”
She said what they do is best seen in the happy and proud faces during the club’s programs.
One of the club’s strengths, McQuaid said, is working with children with challenging behaviours.
“Often these children are struggling with social skills, interpersonal skills, and academic skills. They often come to us feeling like they’re failures and have low self-esteem. They have trouble making friends, they have trouble sitting still, they have trouble fitting in at school, and they feel like they do not belong anywhere.”
She said some of their attendees have been expelled from other programs, and they find a way for the child to fit in and feel they belong.
“Kids’ lives are tough. They face challenges across all spectrums – physical, mental, and emotional. Many of these challenges can arise regardless of economic background. Mental health issues, depression, and anxiety do not discriminate based on economic status.”
She said the club is seeing an increasingly high number of youth struggling with those issues, and they offer a place where youth can channel their energy into positive activities.
This year, along with maintaining their programming, McQuaid said the club’s priority is to replace their 20-passenger bus, which provides pick-up from the local schools, as well as transportation for the club’s day trips. The bus was purchased in 2010, and the club puts roughly 1,000 kilometres on it each month.
The other two presenters for the evening were Colchester Community Workshops and the Cobequid Arts Council.