Calgary Between Friends Club – Fun and Fellowship for Disabled Youth
Our Story Why We Exist
Like any other 9 year-old child arriving in a new city for the first time, Julia* was excited, yet still nervous. She looked forward to a summer of fun, exploring her new surroundings, meeting neighbours and making new friends.
However, as a child with a disability… the desire to meet people and try new things came with its own challenges.
Julia’s family relocated in search of better opportunities. Her parents’ immediate focus was providing for their family and Julia’s recreation activities did not take priority. They had received almost no social or financial support while adapting to their new environment, which put a severe strain on her family.
Julia was facing the possibility of spending her entire summer without opportunities to interact with others.
No outings. No friends.
That’s where Between Friends came in... and changed EVERYTHING.
This summer, Julia was able to attend Between Friends Camp Bonaventure for the first time, which had a profound impact on her life.
Because of Between Friends and generous donors like you, Julia was able to just be a kid... and most importantly, feel accepted.
She had finally found a place to belong.
Our Impact What We Do
Recently parents and caregivers from across the country were surveyed about their children with disabilities to determine the health, well-being and social inclusion of children, youth and their parents. When asked about the quality and number of friendships their child had, parents reported that “one-third of the children have no friends even at school and over half the children have no friends outside of school.”
Now imagine that you have a place to go where you are welcomed, where your interests are considered and you experience fun and friendship. Imagine the surprise when you master something that you weren’t sure you could do and others cheer you on while you do it.
That’s what Between Friends is all about – a place to connect, a place to grow, a place to belong. Our mission is to ensure that people with disabilities have quality social, recreation and self-development opportunities…our vision is that people with disabilities will reach their individual potential and be recognized as valued citizens.
We take participants with every kind of disability – in fact we have 59 different medical diagnoses amongst our participants and over 1/3 are on the autism spectrum. Our youngest participant is 3 and our oldest 68.
For more than 30 years, Between Friends has been offering children, youth, and more recently adults with disabilities, a variety of programs that remove the barriers of isolation and truly function as the building blocks of friendship. We operate more than 130 programs in five program areas. We encourage inclusive program participation by offering program spaces for those who do not have a disability. Our vision is one of inclusion so that there are no barriers to participation within Between Friends and within the wider community.
We are most proud of the work that we do with the community to educate them about including people with disabilities, so that they may participate alongside their typically developing peers. Ah, for society to be inclusive…now wouldn’t that be something special.
We are also proud of the young leaders that we develop. Through our programs, our leaders and volunteers not only learn leadership skills, but they learn how to be accepting of others who may be just a bit different. We focus on ability rather than disability and we focus on similarities rather than differences. Our leaders grow and develop into teachers, speech language pathologists, doctors, psychologists, occupational and physiotherapists…and some of them even enter the oil patch!
The greatest accomplishment we can have is to have our participants develop their skills to the point that they can volunteer and even work for us…and we have a thriving Volunteer in Training program and a service club for adults with disabilities, where they can show off their skills and give back to others in the way that others have given to them all of their lives.
Our Programs How We Do It
Each program area can be considered a stepping stone for participants to develop more experience in connecting, growing and belonging.
- Between Friends Camp Bonaventure: a true summer outdoor day camp at Riveredge Park where friendship and fun flourish for ages 4 to 17.
- Between Friends W.E.S.O.A.R!: a variety of social and recreational group activities like bowling, swimming, movie nights and dancing for all ages.
- Between Friends Camp Fun’zAmust: a unique residential outdoor camp, run in partnership with Easter Seals Camp Horizon, adapted and accessible for ages 7 to 17 & 18 to 40.
- Between Friends Adventurers: a summer program for adults aged 18 and older that is customized to varied interests from city tours to mountain retreats.
- Between Friends I.C.A.N!: a program that promotes social inclusion by having persons with disabilities participate in community programs or camps with their typically developing peers at partner agencies such as the YMCA or Airdrie Genesis. Any private studio can also be an I.C.A.N.! experience.
The outcomes that we expect are that participants will make positive choices toward healthier lifestyles and have positive social interactions with personnel and other participants. Over the longer term, we expect that participants will have the confidence, skills, and knowledge to lead a happy, healthy life; have a sense of belonging and inclusion; and, participants and their families will have a desire to be active and contributing members in their community.
Our Requests What You Can Do
We need your support! Here are ways in which you can make an impact with Between Friends participants:
1. Fee assistance. Help send a kid to camp or an adult on an adventure and ensure everyone has a chance to participate! Participants gain new social skills and confidence, overcome physical challenges, develop independence and make friends.
2. Direct program support for bus charters, program admissions, site rental and program supplies
3. Sponsor a program like Teen Time South, Girl Power, Explorers or Evening Escapes. Organized by age group, our Between Friends W.E.S.O.A.R! (Weekend & Evening Social Opportunities Activities & Recreation) provide a variety of weekly activities, like bowling, swimming, outdoor play, dances, movie nights etc.
4. Capital support. Here are some tangible items that Between Friends needs!
Swings and sensory objects for Multi-Sensory Room at Camp Bonanventure
- Colour projector help provide a calm and soothing environment $500
- Vertical bouncer kit to add to current swing $350
- Lycra swing hammock $850
- Safety set hardware $1,400
- Pop up tents for Camp Bonaventure - provide shade for campers $1,500
- Shade sails for fire shelter at Camp Bonaventure on hot summer days $1,500
- Wheelchair accessible van $65,000
5. Between Friends Endowment at the Calgary Foundation. Contribute to the endowment and ensure a sustainable future for future participants to connect, grow and belong.
6. Plan a gift. Ensure future generations of Between Friends participants have a place to belong, through a bequest, gift of insurance, securities or other planned gift.
Volunteer! We are looking for board members or committee members in the areas of fund development, communications, finance and governance. There are many opportunities to volunteer through our weekly evening and weekend programs, or for our summer camps. http://betweenfriends.ab.ca/volunteer/