If Brandon Funk, 22, tries really hard, he can imagine what his life would have been like without the Boys and Girls Club of Westaskiwin.
He doesn’t think he would have graduated university now, or have an intereting career. He wouldn’t have played basketball at high school, or been one of the presidents of his Grade 12 class. More than any of that, though, he wouldn’t have discovered his life’s passion: helping others.
“I probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble,” he says. “I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
It all started when he was in Grade 1 and his family moved to Wetaskiwin, Alberta, a city of 12,000 just south of Edmonton. He didn’t know a soul. Plus, he was shy. That’s when he got involved in the after-school programs at the local Boys and Girls Club. He still remembers his favourite part, the swash-buckling Friday evening ritual of sword-fighting with foam swords. During those after-school programs and in day camp over the summer, he blossomed.
“It gave me brothers and sisters,” says Brandon, an only child. What he remembers most, though, is that the Club was a safe place for him to go after school in a city that didn’t offer much in the way of activities for kids.
“The Boys and Girls Club helped me open up, not be afraid,” he says.
Eventually, the Club’s coordinator, Tyson Lazaruk, invited Brandon to join the Club’s basketball team and that led to playing basketball at high school, too. By the time he hit Grade 8, Lazaruk offered him the chance to be a volunteer in the Club’s after school program. He aced it.
And when he was old enough, the volunteer job turned into a paying one. Working at the Club was a steep learning curve for him, Brandon says. At first, he wasn’t sure how to handle the kids in his program. “Then you learn to be yourself and talk to them like normal people and everything just comes naturally,” he says.
The payoff is that the kids learned they could talk to him, too. He figured out that helping kids is one of the things he cares about most and it led to his decision to become a teacher.
“It got me involved in the community and now I want to go out and help people,” he says.
His passion for helping people made him one of 10 Boys and Girls Clubs members in Canada to win a $3,200 tuition scholarship funded by the merchandise lease company easyhome, awarded for outstanding community involvement and volunteerism.
His Boys and Girls Clubs experience came full circle when he got accepted to Augustana College. By coincidence, he reconnected with Lazaruk, one of his most important role models, who now works as a recruiter there. “We kind of found each other again,” Brandon says. Brandon continued to work at the Club both part and full time when he was home from Augustana College, the University of Alberta’s satellite campus in Camrose.
Brandon has now graduated from University and has full-time employment but it is not unusual for us to see him still coming to the Club once or twice a week to help out, as well as taking part in the Club's Capital One Race for Kids fundraising event each year.
We are truly lucky to call Brandon one of our Club's Alumni!