The Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island has taken care of kids while parents take care of business since 1972.
For 40 years dedicated staff acted as positive role models for hundreds of children who passed through the doors of the club’s 12 centres across the Island from the Cowichan to Comox valleys.
Karie Nichols, a former youth leader and program coordinator, is one of the people dedicated to making a difference in children’s lives and made a special connection with Ashley Brisson.
Brisson, whose parents both worked, attended the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club program from age six until she was 13.
“I just took a liking to her,” Nichols said. “She had a great personality. Ashley was the one who came every day after school. Even on the days you didn’t want to work, you always knew that Ashley was going to be there and she was one of the ones who could brighten up your day.”
On spring break in 1996 Nichols travelled with Brisson and four other girls to Disneyland. Just before they went to bed one night a conversation about school sparked up. Some of the girls liked school. Others didn’t. Nichols explained how important it was that they graduate high school.
The conversation stuck with Brisson and in 2003 she honoured Nichols by inviting her to attend her graduation ceremony from John Barsby Community School.
“It floored me that she remembered and that I got invited to come,” Nichols said. “It was one of those moments. I went to the graduation and now I understand why parents cry.”
Brisson, now 27, went on to graduate from Vancouver Island University’s culinary arts program and lives with her husband and child in Edmonton. She stops in to visit the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club whenever she returns to Nanaimo.
“(Karie) always listened, she was always there for you,” Brisson said. “I was there for a long time and they were always caring and they helped you.”
Brisson moved to Edmonton in 2006 and it took a while for Nichols to track her down, but they managed to get caught up on each other’s lives recently.
“It was neat to talk to her again and find out where she’s at in her life,” Nichols said.
The Boys and Girls Club is celebrating its 40th anniversary in part by tracking down program alumni and former staff members to see where their lives have gone. It is also inviting alumni to meet some of the new faces involved with the organization at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island 40th anniversary celebration at the Nanaimo Clippers hockey game at Frank Crane Arena Sunday (Dec. 9) at 3 p.m.