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Building communities by building families

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Sappfyre Mcleod was just a wide-eyed nine-year-old caught in the uncomfortable transition of her parents going their separate ways when she first stepped through the doors of the Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg.

By the end of this school year, the 17-year-old Tec Voc High School student will leave the organization with five university scholarships in her hands, looking down a clear cut path that will lead her toward a degree and career in physiotherapy.

But before she leaves, Mcleod wants to pay that debt back, and will begin chipping away at it June 1, as she leads a team from the Freight House Club in the organization’s Race for Kids scavenger hunt event at The Forks.

"It’s unreal to think of everything they provided me with," said Mcleod, who lives in Winnipeg’s Centennial neighbourhood, and will turn 18 on the day of the event.

"Fundraising is a chance to tell them thanks for everything they have invested in me and my family."

Mcleod and her four-member team have so far raised more than $300 of the $500 they were hoping to raise for the national event, which includes more than 350 registered teams participating in races across Canada.

The Boys and Girls Club wants to raise $1.2 million to funnel into its services and programming. The Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg is trying to raise $25,000, which will stay in Winnipeg to support local clubs.

Take a quick peek behind door number four at the Freight House Club on Isabel Street and you can see where that money goes— after-school drop-in recreational programming from sports to crafts to homework help to field trips, and a facility that includes a weight room, kitchen, an outdoor pool, and gymnasium. The club, which runs seven days a week, sees up to 45 kids each day.

Since joining the club — before it moved into Freight House last year — Mcleod says she has come full circle as a young participant turned volunteer turned staff member, supervising a satellite drop-in program at nearby Dufferin School on Mondays.

Growing up, Mcleod said the club helped her play competitive volleyball by covering costly registration costs her family couldn’t afford otherwise, and has guided her through several leadership classes that put her in positions serving on youth councils at both the national and provincial levels.

The Boys and Girls Club provides safe environments for youth outside of school to further their education and take advantages of opportunities they might not otherwise get, Mcleod said.

"I honestly have no idea where my life would be," she said.

"I would have never volunteered, never received the training I’ve got, or the awards. My future would be in the balance. That’s the impact they’ve been able to make.

"It’s monumental," she said.

Marjorie White, Mcleod’s mother and one of her race team members, said her two younger sons are also part of the Freight House Club. The club was a boon for her while she studied and completed her teaching degree in the mid-2000s.

"When we were struggling, Boys and Girls were there," said White.

By getting to know and work with her children, the club has helped instil a love of community, a strong sense of belonging, and a love to help others that will carry them forward in life.

"Kids (today) tend to be very shallow and don’t realize there are greater things beyond them," said White.

"Kindness is a boomerang. It always comes back to you. If it doesn’t come back today, it’ll come back tomorrow."

Sixteen teams will take part in Race for Kids at The Forks June 1 from 8 a.m. to noon. The Boys and Girls Club of Winnipeg has room for 16 more teams.

"Every dollar we raise is important to us," WBGC president Ron Brown said.

"We never want to  deny a Boys and Girls Club member the opportunity to participate in one of our programs because of a financial shortfall."

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