The assistance a Kelowna individual received as a teen through the Boys and Girls Club of the Okanagan resulted in a life purpose to help youth dealing with mental health issues.
Bailey Chamberlain, who was recently announced as one of six Regional Youth of the Year nominees by BGC Canada, the first ever from the Okanagan region, said he was struggling in his teen years after the girl he fell in love with died by suicide.
“I fell off the radar, the staff at the Boys and Girls Club stopped seeing me hanging around and when I did go in they could tell I wasn’t myself,” said Bailey. “I walked through hell. I was getting burned, but they helped me come out of it unscathed.”
It was BGC Okanagan staff who noticed Bailey was in need of assistance.
“That was a turning point for me. I really opened up about what was going on and how I was feeling. The staff took the time to learn about me and realized that when I wasn’t showing up that it was usually because something wasn’t OK,” said Bailey. “It was those messages they would text me or leave on my phone to check in, that made a big difference in my life. There were other things that seem so minor, but were huge to me like sending me home with food when I had money issues that helped turn it around. It is just amazing how much a simple check-in can change things for you.”
Bailey, now 22 years old, is attending post-secondary and also focused on creating music. Along the way a feeling of needing to give back to youth has surfaced.
“I want to show people, kids especially, that this fight of depression and suicidal thoughts is not something they are doing by themselves and it is OK, to not be OK,” said Bailey, who wants to empower young males to have open conversations about their mental health issues.
His passion for helping young people is why Bailey is up for the Youth of the Year, a national initiative celebrating youth leadership and achievement at BGC across Canada. The Youth of the Year aims to foster strong BGC ambassadors and build capacity for Clubs to support more youth in their communities. At the start of the school year, young people ages 15-21 are encouraged to apply for the Youth of the Year by submitting an essay and video showcasing their achievements, service and leadership.
“I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact and being Youth of the Year I will actually be heard. The Clubs taught me a lot about being myself because I am a very straight-forward and to the point person. I am supportive but I am also not going to sugar coat things. I have helped quite a few people with that mentality,” said Bailey. “There is a lot of heavy conversations that need to be had and we should be able to have those conversations, that is one of the biggest things I firmly believe and I really hope I can make a difference.”
As one of the regional nominees, Bailey will receive a prize pack consisting of a laptop, a $2,000 scholarship for post-secondary education, and media and leadership training to prepare him for the next two years as a BGC ambassador. Bailey’s home Club, BGC Okanagan, will also receive a $5,000 grant to further support the Club’s youth engagement work. After a second round of judging, one of the Regional nominees will be named the National Youth of the Year and will receive an additional $8,000 post-secondary scholarship. The National Youth of the Year will be revealed on April 29 at 1 – 2 p.m. at the Youth of the Year Awards taking place virtually: https://www.bgccan.com/youth-of-the-year.