Lions Club District 19E, which covers Washington, western Idaho and south east British Columbia, held its spring conference in Castlegar last week. About 150 delegates attended the event held at the Fireside Inn.
As part of the conference Charlene Krepiakevich, CEO for The British Columbia Lions Society for Children with Disabilities, which operates Easter Seal camps for children and the Easter Seal House in Vancouver, spoke to the group.
The Lions Clubs are key supporters of the camps that support children with any kind of disability and the house.
“I’m here to talk about the importance of their donations and how they make a difference,” she said.
The Easter Seal house hosted 9,500 bed-nights for children and their families from this region in the last five years, with 2700 of those taking place last year.
“What we are seeing is that specialized care centralized in Vancouver, more and more hospitals are referring families into the cities, so the demand for the Easter Seals house is growing.”
Over the last five years 38 families from the region have sent children to Camp Winfield in Vernon.
“It is a magical place,” said Krepiakevich. “It allows kids to try things they may not have tried in their own communities. It is really empowering for the kids who go there — it builds confidence.”
Krepiakevich also explained that there is a growing demand for camps and activities for young adults. As kids age out of the regular childhood support networks, there is a gap in services for them. The organization has been piloting some leadership and life skills camps for young adults.
“They have been wildly popular, it is one of the weeks that fills up the quickest,” she said.
The three camps in B.C. each operate for about eight weeks in July and August and between 200 and 250 campers attend each camp each week. Because of the necessity of a high ratio of one worker for every three kids and required medical staff, it costs about $3000 per camper to attend camp. Counsellors are also available and very specialized programs based on the needs of those attending are developed.
“We’re one of the few charities left that operates our own camps,” concluded Krepiakevich. “It really speaks to the support we get from communities like Castlegar — they really step up and help support the kids who come from this area.”
Camp registrations and information on donating can be found at lionsbc.ca.
As a fun kickoff to the Lion’s conference and in honour of the district govenor Glen Barry, whose home club is in Salmo, required dress for Friday evening was a Salmo Dinner Jacket.