Summer is a time for fun when you’re young. School is out and the weather is warm. It’s a time to play outside and enjoy the sunshine. This summer, many children and families in Kelowna and West Kelowna found their plans had changed drastically.
“Many families had to leave their homes and find lodging in hotels and shelters, or stay with family and friends,” says Naomi Woodland, United Way BC Regional Coordinator. “It’s hard enough to deal with the trauma of the wildfires and not knowing if or when you can go home; it becomes even more difficult when you’re stuck inside with little options for activities.”
A local need answered with a local response
Due to the fires and smoke, outdoor activities like summer camps were cancelled. The poor air quality made it impossible for children and youth to enjoy the summer outside.
This is where United Way BC was able to facilitate a solution. As Naomi describes it, “We were approached by Interior Health about setting up indoor activities for kids and families. I put in a call to Nicole and within two days, they had indoor play camps ready to go.”
Working together to respond quickly
Nicole Hoodicoff, Family Support Services Manager with Childhood Connections, says the quick response came about through the Central Okanagan Early Years Partnership. “We work so well together,” she says.
Two locations were opened for the indoor play groups – one in Kelowna through KCR Community Resources and one in West Kelowna through Childhood Connections. The spaces’ use was donated by the Central Okanagan School District and are open to families as a safe location for them to spend the day while their children play indoors.
Providing a safe space to play and connect
At Childhood Connections, they had 16 families their first day. On Tuesday, that number doubled with 32 families attending. “It’s great to see everyone connecting with one another,” says Nicole.
The gymnasium at the Childhood Connections location is separated into different areas, catering to different interests like crafts (they recently made hearts for firefighters) or physical activities (like sportball). Fresh fruit and water is also supplied, thanks to Food it Forward.
Nicole enthuses about the sense of community and partnership that brought about the play groups. “Everyone just wants to help. Everyone comes together. It’s great.”
“United Way BC has a special connection with agencies and partners in the area,” says Naomi. “This means we can react quickly and work with our partners to find these unique solutions.”