Hay River has managed to raise $5,600 for Lights On, a Friday and Saturday night program that offers kids a place to hang out and be active in a safe environment.
The Hay River Elks Club joined the Super A grocery store in raising money for the popular program at Diamond Jenness Secondary School and Princess Alexandra School. The Elks donated $1,500 and Super A ran a campaign for several months that netted $4,100.
“It’s nice to see the community, through Super A, raise $4,000 to help Lights On,” said Steve Anderson, the co-owner of the grocery store. “It’s so important to the community of Hay River and the youth. It adds so much value to their education and their lives.”
Anderson said this was the third year in which the store conducted a round-up, in which clients were asked if they would like to round their tally up to the nearest dollar at the till, and that it has been the most successful so far. Super A is currently holding a round-up to raise money for relief efforts in the Philippines.
“It gets the kids in the schools in a positive way,” Anderson said of Lights On. “It makes it more of a home and place they want to come to learn, keeps them off the streets, and away from dangerous influences.”
Gerry Walker, Lecturing Knight with the Hay River Elks Club, said he has seen youth all over the North with no place to go turning towards crime and substance abuse, and said young people in Hay River are lucky to have a program like Lights On.
“Especially in the smaller communities, you can see what happens when they have nowhere to go,” he said. “Here, you can see the opposite, they’re so happy to be here and so respectful.”
Walker also noted that participants in Lights On also learn a lot about socializing from each other and see good role models in the adult volunteers who staff the program.
“When they grow up in that, it’s good training and they learn to keep it together,” he said.
Jill Taylor, the program’s founder and staunchest advocate, said she was overwhelmed by the community support.
“It’s just amazing,” she said. “The Elks have been with us since the very beginning and we so appreciate that they continue to support us and see value in our program.”
Taylor said that, when Lights On first started over five years ago, before there was anything in the way of federal funding, the Elks helped her get the program off the ground by footing the insurance costs.
“They really made it possible that first year,” she said.
As for Super A, Taylor noted the round-up was really a community effort and it indicated a pretty strong vote of support from Hay River as a whole.
“One of the best things about this (fundraising) program is that it all stays right here in town,” she said. “Sometimes, you’re not sure if it’s going somewhere else, but with this, there are no administration costs or hidden fees. It goes back to the youth and the community 100 per cent.”