BGC Ottawa Makes Big Strides in the National Capital Region

As the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, now BGC Ottawa, near 100 years old they are energized and as vital as ever! They have just opened a covid-19 resilient clubhouse in Ottawa South that will serve up to  5,000 youth in the area offering free programs and services. On May 5, 2022, there is added excitement around the positive impacts BGC Ottawa creates for children and  youth in Ottawa with their ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the new 15,000 Sq foot space. This new clubhouse gives  young people a place to grow,  be themselves, and access barrier-free services especially those coming from underserved neighbourhoods. BGC currently has 11 satellite locations and 4 clubhouses serving the Ottawa region. 

Gavin Lumsden, no stranger to marathons and big challenges, champions the BGC Ottawa Team for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Team Walk this Way will participate in the 5K together on Saturday, May 28 at 4 o’clock in bright yellow ‘WalkThisWay’ BGC shirts. Walk this Way restarted in-person at the end of March after being on hold for the last two years. Each week, the group of youth ages 7-12 gathers to walk and do fun activities over 12 weeks, training to do the 5K together. “Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is the pinnacle of the program, it takes us from spring into summer and has become a big hit,” says Lumsden. 

“I have seen the value and impact of this program over these years, I have also seen the level of need in this city where youth are underserved. Marginalization is isolating, there is so much BGC Ottawa contributes around empowering and connecting with each other. It goes way beyond having homework programs and a place to play. There are many ways kids can be isolated or feel reluctant to be active at school, at BGC Ottawa there are many ways to participate and access new things, it also can provide a safe(r) space to get active,” Lumsden says. Lumsden drew upon his 10 years of clinics at the Running Room and years of marathon experience to create fun and novel experiences for team routes.

Walk This Way 2022 activities are planned to bring youth together to explore interesting areas of the city and have extra activities tied in, like ‘clean up in the capital’ or an easter egg hunt on the grounds of Rideau Hall “The second to last route will go up the Gatineau hills toward Champlain Lookout and team mates are most welcome to join us for the last uphill training leading into race day,”shared Lumsden. The Ottawa 5K presented by Runkeeper is a BGC Ottawa group event where all team members are welcome.

Three years ago Walk this Way, before pandemic shutdowns, had 212 youth bussing from 6 other clubhouses around the city to meet-ups. They would walk interesting areas of the city, at times doing activities while walking, covering 5-10 km. Lumsden jokes, “it consisted of 5 kids and a stray dog the first year. As the program grew, it became more ”do we have to”, to an excited “where are we going!? 1,500 kids over 15 years have been a part of Walk this Way— youth of all ages, and backgrounds that I have watched grow and thrive. Now I would like to sustain this program into perpetuity.” Lumsden asserts that he doesn’t like fundraising, however he has set a stretch goal for the team of $100,000!

At Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, Lumsden will walk the 5K with the BGC Ottawa Team, and run the Ottawa Half Marathon presented by Desjardins. Also, over the course of a month he will move in any way he can to reach his goal of 100 kilometres for $100K. He is committed to raise money and awareness about the importance of youth sport activity. Lumsden shares, “I want to champion wellness in a fun way, Walk this Way doesn’t have to be running, so I will skate, crawl, bike, skip, to celebrate the many ways one can be active.” 

Lumsden is well-known in Ottawa for his humanitarian and volunteer work, having received Person of the Year from the City of Ottawa in 2019, although he is modest about his contributions to the community. One July 6 2021, the Ottawa Citizen wrote, “This incredibly humble community builder never stops and always wants to help others in one way or another. “I grew up in a family that emphasized community,” Lumsden said. “If you wanted to be part of the community you had to contribute to it. My parents instilled that to us at a very early age, so we have always volunteered.”

Lumsden credits Sean Egan for his engagement in youth wellness.At 63 [Sean] wanted to be the oldest to summit Mount Everest, and was raising awareness about child obesity and nutrition. With changes in activity levels, obesity was eclipsing malnutrition as a concern. Even though he was in great shape, on the ascent to camp two Sean got a lung infection, his heart failed and he died. The lessons stuck. He helped me strive to help children with activity and carry on this goal in his honour”.

The Board members and staff at BGC Ottawa are gearing up for their races at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend now that spring has sprung and Walk this Way has begun. Anne Premachuk and her brother have created a team to run in honour of their father who passed away when they were young. Running together was something he enjoyed and they connect with his memory this year at the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa.

BGC Ottawa Board member Michelle Taggart has a very special relationship to Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. The Taggart and Parkes families founded and own Tamarack Homes, the generous Title sponsor of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. The Taggart-Parkes Foundation and Taggart leadership brought together infrastructure funding for the new 5,000 person state-of-the-art BGC building. “Leadership from business, government, and community all work together to make visions like the Heatherington Taggart-Parkes Family Clubhouse a reality,” says Taggart, “BGC Ottawa is much more than homework clubs and basketball, there are relationships and resources that shape lives. This building is an investment in the future.” 

Taggart has watched youth over the years go through the programs and thrive with opportunities like scholarships and job opportunities and are now looking to give back. “There is a need for community members to be loud and proud about their support for charity, we are usually quiet about the foundation’s work, but if we lead by example perhaps it will spark a spirit of giving to community in others”, shared Taggart of the Taggart-Parkes Foundation leadership gift of 1.4 million dollars of the $10,000,000 project. 

BGC Ottawa invites you to join and raise funds to help youth thrive in the community. Visit the ‘Opportunity Changes Everything’ Walk this Way fundraising page to register or donate.