Boys & Girls Clubs offer unique opportunities for our members to be successful. Today I bring you a conversation I had with Heather Peterson from Boys & Girls Clubs of Lac Courte Orielles, one of the first Boys & Girls Clubs on a Native American Reservation. One of their members recently won a national Boys & Girls Clubs recipe contest sponsored by the Anthem Foundation, which is aimed at encouraging kids to embrace healthy eating. All of the recipes were judged by television personality and chef Richard Blais, and the winners received $2,000 for their Club. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the winning recipe!
This all started in your Club programming day. Can you tell me a little bit about how you teach healthy lifestyles at your Club?
We have a program at the Club called Healthy Habits, which teaches youth how to be healthy in an unhealthy world. Lessons cover things like nutrition to portion sizes, and how lots of fun exercising each day will keep you and your child healthy. This also gives kids an opportunity to cook in our kitchen.
You have a Director of Healthy Lifestyles on staff at your Club. Why do you have such an intentional emphasis on this program area, so much so that there is a staff person dedicated to it?
We truly believe our kids deserve the most from their Club Experience. We have a dedicated staff member for all 3 pillars, including an Academic Coordinator, Character and Leadership Coordinator, and Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator. Everything we do at the Club we try to tie to one or more pillars. Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator has always been a vital role at our Club. With all of today’s health concerns facing youth, we want to provide as much support as possible and to help enable our youth to make informed decisions when it comes to healthy eating.
How did the contest work? Why did he think this was a good opportunity?
As I receive different information from BGCA, I pass it along to our Unit Director and the appropriate Coordinator. When I saw this one, I knew we had just the staff member to pull this one off! Director of Healthy Lifestyles Jathan and his wife Becky are very health conscious. I knew Becky could help with pulling together some healthy recipes from her personal “stash”. Becky provided the Club with different recipes and each member picked their favorite recipe, before even tasting it. They then voted as a group on the top 4 and made those recipes, then taste-tested them all. The group ended up picking the Chocolate Chia Pudding recipe that John chose and made!
John won! What will the Club be using the $2,000 for?
We are going to use these funds to build a shed to store our 15 mountain bikes we are purchasing through our T.R.A.I.L. grant, a program aimed at type 2 diabetes prevention in Native youth. We have borrowed bikes from different organizations for years to run our Bike Club. The kids utilize our local walking/biking trail that is connected to the Club and travels throughout our community. It is one of our members’ favorite activities during summer programming. Now having our own bikes and being able to store them on site will allow us to use our bikes more during spring and fall than before, since we didn’t always have access to borrowed bikes. We wanted to be sure to reinvest this money back into our Healthy Lifestyles Programming.
I’d like to know more about John himself. You said he is a “Club kid to his core.” What does he like about the Club? How did he feel when he won?
John is a 9 year old who could not wait to turn 6 so he could be an official Club Member. John is at the Club everyday throughout the year. He is a very kind, friendly boy who is full of energy! He loves to be involved in everything! He is also a sports fanatic! The gym is usually his favorite place to be. Since Healthy Habits included not only physical activity but also healthy food options, this program is what got John into the kitchen. He was very excited when he heard he won! Did I mention John is also very competitive?! LOL!! He had a smile ear to ear and couldn’t wait to tell everyone.
Why are providing opportunities and setting high expectations for excellence so important for your Club members?
Like I stated earlier, our kids deserve the best from us. I personally believe that each child in this building should be treated as if they are our own child. As parents we want the best for our kids, we want our kids to have amazing experiences, we want our kids exposed to caring adults, we want our kids to be prepared for life after childhood. Why wouldn’t we want that for our Club kids? Our Club kids are OUR kids.
Anything else I didn’t ask that I should have?
Miigwech (Thank You) to BGCA for always providing different activities for our Clubs to participate in.
Heather Peterson is Chief Executive Officer at BGC of Lac Courte Orielle, and is a proud former Club member- she was their first Youth of the Year in 1998! She has been working at the Club for 19 years, working her way up from part time youth worker to CEO. In her free time, she spends time with her kids (both Club members) and loves to hang out on the lake.
Try John’s winning recipe!
Chocolate Chia Pudding
- 3 cups non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, etc.)
- 1 ripe avocado
- 3 Tbsp chia seeds
- 3 Tbsp raw cacao (or cocoa)
- 1/4 c raw agave nectar (or honey)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of sea salt
- Optional 2 drops peppermint essential oil
Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Adjust ingredients to desired taste. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes to thicken.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America have created or adapted many of our programs to be culturally and socially relevant to the needs of Native youth. For more information, visit the Native Services site online or at BGCA.net. Also be sure to read the other posts in the Native American Heritage Month series!