Life-altering is how participants and organizers are describing the impact of a recent program for a group of very special young people.
“These were girls who may have been at risk, who maybe didn’t fit in or who may not come from the strongest or richest families, but at the end of it all you could see how much good was in them,” said Penticton recreation co-ordinator Ted Hagmeier. “They’re right on the cusp of being a teenager and of being an adult, but there’s still something very innocent and child-like about them as well.
“Unfortunately I think that innocence gets lost too quickly these days. There are also a lot of people who look at girls and boys this age as trouble, which is not the case, and that was a really encouraging and beautiful thing to see.”
Over a period of several weeks last month the Girls Expanding Boundaries program provided an opportunity for the more than a dozen participants to experience three winter sports, snowshoeing, snowboarding and nordic or cross-country skiing at no charge.
As well, the girls also had a chance to hear from successful women like Gina Kingsbury, a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning women’s hockey team.
“As part of the program we felt it was important to try to give them some mentorship and inspiration, so along with each winter sport we arranged for a speaker to talk to the girls,” said Hagmeier. “I hope that it gave them some inspiration, some mentorship and maybe even gave them a little bit of hope which I think it did. I think it also helped show how beautiful and special the girls are, and the kind of people they turned out to be, as I discovered on the night of our wrap-party.”
The girls themselves also did a brief review of the program in which they were asked what they enjoyed most and least.
Like many of the responses, one participant said she would not change anything and there was nothing negative, with the exception it was “TOO SHORT.”
Another responded to the question about what she liked most, to which she replied: “Everything.”
Another unexpected positive aspect of the program for the recreation co-ordinator was the help he received from individuals and other organizations locally.
That ranged from businesses which provided food, services, equipment and instruction to the Salvation Army which helped the girls with warm clothes and a snack.
“I cannot get over how supportive this community is, my jaw just drops. So many were there because they believed in it and they believe in us and they are just such good people,” said Hagmeier. “It just reaffirms why I am in this field, just a magical thing to be a part of. I emailed my supervisor at the end of the night and said I think this is the best thing I have ever been associated with.”
Most of the money for the program came from a BC Parks and Recreation Association grant and there are currently plans to look at a similar project in the fall if the resources and personnel permit.