Local man has found his niche with B&G Club of Airdrie
Hanging out at the Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie (BGC) has become second nature to Airdronian Evan Johnson, 26.
More than 10 years ago, the now father of two joined the club as a teen and has never looked back. He is currently a part-time staff member who co-leads the Keystone youth group for teens ages 14 to 18.
“The club is just part of my life,” said Johnson. “It is just a part of what I like to do and it keeps me connected to the community. I don’t consider it a job, it is a privilege being involved… regardless of whether I am paid or not.”
Johnson moved to Airdrie when he was 10, but it wasn’t until he was a Grade 9 student in Rocky View Virtual School that he got involved with the BGC.
“A couple of my close friends encouraged me to come to an open house,” said Johnson, adding he joined as a member of Keystone. “I had no idea what to expect… but (I stayed) because of the fact that you could be yourself without being judged.”
Over the past 10 years, Johnson said he has made a number of good friends and has grown to be the person he now is, thanks, in part, to the influence of staff and participants at the BGC.
“If you are involved, you are part of a big family,” he said.
Johnson, who now operates a day home with his wife in addition to his part-time job at the club, said his involvement with the BGC also made him realize how well he works with youth.
He said he is proud of the difference he makes in the young people’s lives.
“I feel like I am friends with each and every one them,” he said. “Some of them I have known for a few years, and I have seen the changes. It makes you feel like you have had a little bit to do with that. It is nice to be a part of something and to see people succeed.”
Johnson said as a leader of the Keystone group, he mentors and directs the youth, but allows the students to come up with the ideas for activities and fundraising opportunities. He said this year, the group is in charge of organizing activities and fundraising for a fall retreat.
Keystone members also volunteer within the community at places such as the Bethany Care Centre and the Festival of Lights.
“(Keystone) gets the kids thinking and it’s not just us adults telling them what to do,” he said. “It gives them initiative and it teaches them life skills. We are there to direct them.”
Johnson encourages youth to check out the BGC, saying it provides amazing opportunities and offers acceptance to teens struggling to find where they fit in.
“It doesn’t matter what your financial issue is at home or whether you are fostered or come from a (traditional family), it is for everybody,” said Johnson. “Anybody can show up and you will be accepted. People here don’t preach or tell you what to think or do. Whatever your issues are, you bring them in and you are accepted for who you are and what you do. There is no judgement.”
As for Johnson, he says the BGC not only provided him a place to fit in, but gave him a lifelong goal.
“I wanted to be a positive influence on younger generations as I grew up,” he said. “The club obviously helped me on that route.”