Okanagan Boys and Girls Club helps turn a life around

Life-changing commitment

The first-ever Okanagan nominee for the Boys and Girls Club Regional Youth of the Year award says he owes the organization a great debt.

“I walked through hell. I was getting burned, but they helped me come out of it unscathed," said Bailey Chamberlain, a 22-year-old Kelowna resident.

Chamberlain says the help he received as a teen through the Boys and Girls Club of the Okanagan resulted in a life purpose to help youth dealing with mental health issues.

"The staff took the time to learn about me and realized that when I wasn’t showing up that it was usually because something wasn’t OK,” said Chamberlain. “It was those messages they would text me or leave on my phone to check in, that made a big difference in my life. There were other things that seem so minor, but were huge to me like sending me home with food when I had money issues that helped turn it around. It is just amazing how much a simple check-in can change things for you.”

Chamberlain is attending post-secondary school and is also focused on creating music. Along the way, a feeling of needing to give back to youth has surfaced.

“I want to show people, kids especially, that this fight of depression and suicidal thoughts is not something they are doing by themselves and it is OK, to not be OK,” said Chamberlain, who wants to empower young males to have open conversations about their mental health issues.

Chamberlain's commitment to helping young people is why he's up for the Youth of the Year award. At the start of the school year, youth aged 15-21 are encouraged to apply for the award by submitting an essay and video showcasing their achievements, service and leadership.

“The clubs taught me a lot about being myself because I am a very straight-forward and to-the-point person. I am supportive but I am also not going to sugarcoat things. I have helped quite a few people with that mentality,” said Chamberlain. “There is a lot of heavy conversations that need to be had and we should be able to have those conversations, that is one of the biggest things I firmly believe and I really hope I can make a difference.”

Chamberlain has already earned a prize pack consisting of a laptop, a $2,000 scholarship for post-secondary education, and media and leadership training to prepare him for the next two years as a BGC ambassador. Chamberlain’s home Club, BGC Okanagan, will also receive a $5,000 grant to further support the Club’s youth engagement work. After a second round of judging, one of the regional nominees will be named the National Youth of the Year and will receive an additional $8,000 post-secondary scholarship.

The National Youth of the Year will be revealed on April 29.

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