Thompson-Okanagan girls of any age and ability welcomed at Girls Club - InfoNews

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Thompson-Okanagan girls of any age and ability welcomed at Girls Club

The girls gave some love to goats at Crazy 8cres farm in Kamloops.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Rachel Cook
December 23, 2019 - 7:00 AM

Making friends can be quite hard for some, but this B.C. initiative hopes to make that easier for girls and women with varying degrees of neurological and physical diversities.

Kamloops is home to the newest chapter of Girls Club, an inclusive all-ages group that welcomes girls of any ability to play, create, and socialize.

Rachel Cook lived in Vernon and took her nine-year-old daughter to the Okanagan Chapter of Girls Club. When they moved to Kamloops, her daughter was missing the connection and friendship, and Cook decided to create her own chapter.

Cook started the Thompson Valley Girls Club chapter in March, and now there are 83 girls who attend their monthly get-together.

“We meet once a month… we do a variety of things. At our first event, we had a pizza party and made bath bombs, we’ve had picnics in the park, barbeques, gone to farms, petting zoos, chatting with the farms and experiencing the animals. We had a Halloween party in October, and we’re having a Christmas party this Saturday, and the girls can get a photo with Santa,” Cook says.

The Kamloops-based group is one of five chapters throughout the province. The Girls Club movement was started by a mother in Vancouver who was frustrated by the lack of social options for her daughter who is on the autism spectrum.

“It started down in Vancouver by a lady named Vicky Ryan, because she has a non-verbal daughter with autism,” Cook says. “There’s such a high ratio for boys to female, I think it’s four to one for boys who have been diagnosed over females, and so all the groups she ever brought her to was all boys.”

Cook says Ryan cherished her group of female friends and wanted her daughter to have the same. Girls Club exists to offer girls and women of any ability the chance to get together, go on outings, celebrate the holidays and create connections.

Some of the Girls Club members at their Halloween party.
Some of the Girls Club members at their Halloween party.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Rachel Cook

The girls in the Thompson Valley chapter range in age from four to 35 years old, with the majority of them being between seven and 18, according to Cook. The girls come with a guardian and are able to mingle freely and take part in some organized events.

“It’s very casual,” Cook says. “We don’t want to put pressure on them to do activities. It’s non-structured play where we create an environment where the girls feel safe in, and they can socialize and explore and meet friends and share if they wish to, but there’s never any pressure to do that…. We’re not a support group, we’re a social group.”

The girls are never asked what conditions they may have, but Cook says through their own sharing she has learned that the girls in the Thompson Valley chapter have cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other diagnoses.

The group often plans outdoor events in the nice weather, but rents out Old Fellows Hall for larger events or meets at Social Butterflies Activities and Learning Ltd. without any rental cost to the group.

Cook says Autism B.C. gives the Girls Club $4,000 per year, which is split between the chapters. Cook is grateful for the donation but says the groups do many fundraising projects to cover the cost of trips, supplies, food and hall rentals.

If you want to donate to this organization or find out more about Girls Club, check out their website.

 


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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