When he was just 8, Danny (not his real name) was so unhappy at his old school near Summerside, Prince Edward Island that he couldn’t even stay in the classroom. His last day there, a cold one in late fall, he was out walking around the school for two and a half hours before anybody called his mom to let her know he was gone.
“He was so stressed,” his mother says. “He was not trusting. He was very anxious. He really was not getting along with the other kids.”
In short, a very unhappy boy who was failing to thrive. His mom insisted he be moved to a new school in Summerside and managed to get him a spot in the Boys and Girls Club of Summerside’s after-school program. That was two years ago and Danny, now 10, has never looked back.
“He has friends now,” his mom says, a sense of wonder creeping into her voice. “He’s a completely changed child. I think the Club saved his life. They got him on the right track.”
Danny fell in love with the staff right away, she says. In fact, a few months after he started at the Club, Danny had to write a report for his Grade 3 class about someone who was a role model in his life. He picked a Boys and Girls Club staffer, without prompting from his mother.
The trick, Danny’s mom says, is that the staff treat every child fairly and equally. In her experience, staff are fully focused on the children. They never turn children away, even if their families can’t afford the modest fees for the programs, she says. Most of all, they simply never give up on a child, even one like Danny who used to have a lot of problems.
Danny’s view of men has shifted radically because of the great staff at the Club and the volunteers from sports teams who spend time with the kids after school and during the popular summer day-camp program, his mom says. Before, the only child of a single mother, Danny thought all men were out to get him, she says. Now, when he sees one of the Club staff out at the local rink, he’ll run up and talk to him, like the other kids, and give him an affectionate knuckle bump in greeting.
“The men there really took him under their wings,” she says. “It’s such a relief. Now he’s safe and happy.”
Danny still has the odd crummy day at school, she says, but now he has ways of coping with that. The main one is to go to his after-school Boys and Girls Club program, tell staff he’s had a terrible day and talk to them about it.
Danny’s mom says the staff are always right there, quick to pick up signs of a bad day and give a listening ear if Danny wants that. Sometimes Danny and a staff member will slip outside, sit on a step and have a conversation.
For Danny’s mom, it means she can concentrate better on work, knowing that he’s being looked after.
“I love the Boys and Girls Club,” she says. “That’s for sure.”