The Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary (BGCC) hosted their annual Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24 in support of bullying awareness across Canada.
More than 40 children, ages 12 to 14, gathered in the spacious basement of the Beltline Youth Centre, writing their “pink shirt promises” on a pink wall arranged by the staff and volunteers.
Over the past decade, the view on bullying, in any form, has drastically changed.
Manager of Education and Employment Initiatives for BGCC Crys Robinson said that for instance wearing pink isn’t a source of ridicule anymore.
“Six years ago, kids were picked on for wearing pink, [but] today it’s a normal and even a cool thing to do,” Robinson said.
The BGCC runs seven days a week, 363 days a year, and encourages struggling youth of all ages to lean on them for help.
Support comes in many forms for the children, including the Rogers Media-sponsored program Raising the Grade, which provides academic assistance for many educational needs.
Nicholas Senaraine, a 17-year-old high school student, has been with the BGCC for three years.
Along with recording rap songs at the Beltline Youth Centre, Senaraine does his best to make an appearance at events like Pink Shirt Day.
“What the staff does here is incredible. They’re incredible,” he said. “There’s so much positive energy at every event.”
Senaraine uploads his songs to soundcloud.com/nickwisemusic.
Along with organizing a lip-sync battle for kids and staff alike, the coordinators of Pink Shirt Day encourage youth to mingle and step out of their comfort zone.
“When I see quiet kids come out of their shell and interact with people, it’s amazing and incredibly special,” Robinson said.
Jacob Norton, a Mount Royal University practicum student, said the BGCC was at the top of his list when searching for an internship.
“I have four months to make a difference in any given professional situation. I wanted to make a difference for these kids,” he said.
Not only are the youth inspired to change, the volunteers and staff members have also found that the kids impact their lives just as much.
Six years ago, kids were picked on for wearing pink, [but] today it’s a normal and even a cool thing to do. – Crys Robinson
With four separate BGCC programs and facilities run across the city, there is ample opportunity for mental, physical and even spiritual growth.
“To see a kid that wants to better themselves, regardless of their background, makes this all worth it,” Norton said.
Events like Pink Shirt Day happen every two months, giving the public plenty of chances to get involved and show support not only for the BGCC, but also Calgary’s youth.