The Impact of Recognition with Owen Charters, President & CEO of BGC Canada

By Aleah Balas

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An NHL Player. An internationally-renowned child psychiatrist. A TV sports commentator. A noted Canadian politician. What could these four individuals possibly have in common? They are all former Club kids and inductees into BGC Canada’s first-ever Alumni Hall of Fame. Taylor Hall, Dr. Jean Clinton, Kayla Grey, and Art Eggleton were inducted on May 31 at a Gala Event hosted by CBC’s Steve Patterson. 


Earlier this year, the BGC Alumni Hall of Fame was introduced as a way to celebrate and honour the notable accomplishments of former “Club Kids,” while also amplifying the impact of Clubs across the country, one of Canada’s best-kept secrets, according to the President & CEO of BGC Canada, Owen Charters.


“More people need to know about the work we do. BGC Canada provides more than after-school programs. From food programs to job training skills to mental health support, a Club is there when kids need it. More people need to understand what a Club means – without a stigma attached to it. We bring opportunity to kids.” 


For 125 years, BGC Canada (formerly Boys & Girls Clubs) has been creating opportunities for millions of kids and teens. As Canada’s largest child and youth-serving charitable and community services organization, Clubs open their doors to young people of all ages and their families at over 600 locations nationwide.


“Clubs are all of the things that kids should have and a detour away from all of the things that kids should not have. We’re an extension of the family. We are making sure that kids find their opportunities in life and take advantage of whatever we can give them so that they can come out the other end better adults.” 


While a team of dedicated staff plays a vital role at each Club, the true heart of every BGC Club is kids. They are empowered to be the best versions of themselves and to become the sculptors of their own lives. 


“The key thing is that this is the kid’s place, not the adult’s place. That’s why it’s called a Club. It’s a place where a kid belongs, more than anything else.” 

Owen Charters quote in black bold font against a grey background

Charters nods to a fact that many alumni admire about the Club: while the kids and the times may be different, nothing fundamental has changed over the years. 


“It doesn’t matter what activity they do right now. We have kids coding, and they’re doing more STEAM programming than ever before. But the basketball looks the same. The fact that the kids are the ones who are finding a place that they call their place, that has stayed the same.”


While alumni recognition is common with institutions like universities and colleges, this type of alumni engagement for local programs is something not often seen. Charters would like to change that. 


“We did a study years back where 69% of BGC Club alumni said the Club had saved their life because of the choices it helped them make. Clubs have that kind of impact. To me, that’s bigger than graduating with a four-year degree, walking across the stage and then going off to get your first job. These are the alumni we truly should be celebrating because the Club had the biggest impact.” 


The impact of this type of recognition lies at the heart of why awards like this matter, both to the kids and to Canadians. 


“BGC Clubs are about incredible people who go on to incredible things. We want to remove the stigma and show what happens to Club kids who come through Clubs. They go on to do amazing stuff – they become politicians, they become star athletes, they become super academics, they become world-renowned. We’re dealing with kids who have incredible potential and we help them find it. That’s what our Alumni Hall of Fame represents.” 


The nature of the Clubs is to be actively helping kids be their best selves, and because of this Charters notes that it can be difficult for the Clubs to celebrate their success. Many local Club staff speak about how they work with kids, but not the importance of that work. While it can be challenging to conquer this ultra-humble nature, Charters is optimistic about the power the Alumni Hall of Fame will have, especially the ability to show Canadians the power of the Clubs in transforming children into successful Canadians. 


“We can’t think of a better way to tell the story. It shows some of our most successful Club alumni who are proof of how Clubs work and why this is so fantastic. It is about helping those clubs tell that story that’s so vital.” 


To find out more about how you can support BGC Canada’s life-changing work, visit