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“One hundred is a lot, dad!”

My son is just learning about how many ‘things’ make up a hundred at school.  In some respects, it is a lot, but sometimes it seems like just a few, depending entirely on context.

I’m writing this on my one-hundredth day in the role as CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, and it’s been an amazing one hundred days. While I couldn’t even imagine 100 days out when I started, the weeks and months have flown by already. It’s been packed, and I still wish I could have done even more in the first 100 days. But there will be many more hundred days to come!

My first one hundred days have been marked by visits to many of our Clubs, with plans and intentions to get out to see more as often as I can. From time in the Maritimes, Quebec, and southern Ontario, I’ve been able to see the work we do firsthand and hear from Club staff about our impact, and also about our challenges. Where I have been able to get to your Club, thank you for the very warm welcomes. I’ve been overwhelmed by the hospitality, and the uncontainable enthusiasm and passion you each have for your work.

My conclusions so far are that we may be Canada’s best kept secret—we do the work that needs to be done to serve children, youth, and their families, but we often do it with our head down, focused on the most important people: the kids and teens we serve. But nationally, Canadians don’t always know who we are, and even when they know who we are, they often don’t know what we do. Our story is compelling, and it needs to be bolder. Building on the foundation of the Great Futures Start Here campaign and messaging, we can and will do more to raise our voice and let others know about the incredible work of the Clubs across this country.

People need to know how relevant we are to the issues of the day, from accepting Syrian refugee children into our facilities and working on community integration, to increasing youth employment, including the federal government’s promise to double the funding for the Canada Summer Jobs program. Our brand is strong, but it’s not loud enough—we will plan to amplify our voice so all Canadians can be proud to have Boys & Girls Clubs in their community.

We will take a more active role in shaping and influencing policies that affect children, youth, and families across the country, and be active in (and often lead) the conversations about the topics of concern. These include the shameful conditions in many communities for indigenous children and youth—brought into the headlines yet again with the crisis in Attawapiskat—as well as violence, crime, poverty, and need for greater community supports and integration. We can’t do it all throughout our movement, but we are the voice for the needs of children and youth in our communities. We’re part of the solution, and we’re working on building great futures.

Some of my time has been spent in Ottawa with our Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Rachel Gouin, and we have had a welcoming reception from federal ministers, politicians, and bureaucrats. While it may be easy to like us if you’re a politician (because it’s always great to be associated with kids and building a brighter future), we also will be more involved, and more demanding for the policies and funding that will make real change for the next generations. Our elected representatives can’t just claim to like us—we need them to commit to action too. If you’re working with or connecting with federal ministers, we’d love to know so we can coordinate our messaging and efforts to get the most impact.

While there is much more I could communicate today, there are also many more topics that need further exploration, including expanding our reach into communities that need our support, strengthening our fundraising locally and nationally, program growth, and enhancing our capacity to communicate with each other. On that last point, I’m looking forward to meeting many of you in Kelowna at the end of the month and having discussions about what’s important to you. And for those of you who can’t make it, I’m still working to connect with as many of you as I can.

I continue to explore new ways that I can hear from and communicate with you—as I said in my first message in January, these may include virtual means, such as online meetings, or others tools. I’m open to hearing about the topics you want to talk about, and if you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out: ocharters@bgccan.com, (905) 477-7272 x226.

In the meantime, the countdown to Kelowna is on, and for those of you attending, pack your bags for a week of information, education, connections, and of course, fun.

One hundred days can go by surprisingly quickly. And now that I’m taking stock of all that’s happened in those days, I have one overriding conclusion: this is a good place to be.

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