Stettler’s Deacon Barclay is a young man with an inspiring vision for community-building.
Barclay, 13, who is part of the local Big Brother Big Sisters organization, landed the special honour of being named a United Way Ambassador this past fall.
He is currently in Grade 8 at William E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus.
“It’s going really well,” explained Deacon of his work as an ambassador, noting that speaking gigs have included Nova Chemicals and Alberta Health Services.
On Feb 14th, he also had the chance to speak during the United Way’s 2020 Community Celebration Breakfast where those in attendance learned that $1.82 million was raised through this year’s United Way Central Alberta fundraising campaign.
“I spoke about Big Brothers and the United Way, and about how Big Brothers helps to change kids’ lives,” he explained, adding that he really enjoys having the opportunity to more fully explain what the program involves.
There is a misconception out there, for example, that to be a Big Brother or a Big Sister is a costly venture, but that’s simply not true.
“You just have to spend some time together,” he said, adding that simple times of conversation can even make a big difference.
“Some times that can really change things. Just being someone they can talk with, and leave all of their worries behind for that time that you are with them.”
After being on the wait list for five years, Deacon was paired this past year with Ralph Kamlah – and it’s proven to be a perfect partnership.
“I’m happy to have another person to talk to,” said Deacon of his pairing with Kamlah. “It’s also another thing to look forward to.”
If you are having a bad day, some time with a Big Brother or a Big Sister can really turn that around, he said. “It’s really nice to have that extra helping hand.”
Since 1913, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching children and youth with role models. In Stettler, the organization has been operating since 1985.
Meanwhile, Deacon’s mom, Tricia Wager, couldn’t be more proud of her son and the of the difference he’s already making in the community at large. “I’m very, very proud of him. He’s so articulate in speaking about it, and his passion for it comes through, and his sincerity. It’s overwhelming how proud his dad and I are of him.
“Another thing I really love about him is that he likes to make a difference and he’s always been an advocate. When he was little, and someone was getting picked on or something was wrong, or an animal was getting hurt, he was in there speaking his mind,” she explained.
As to the BBBS program, Wagner said it’s great to see how it opens doors to all kinds of new experiences for the youth as well.
“They’ve always been fantastic – we love all of our experiences through all the different programs,” she said. “They bring those qualities out in each child.”
For Cristel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS, seeing Deacon’s development over the years to where he is today has been an inspiration.
“I am very proud of Deacon, as he has come a long way from his first years here at the Heartland Youth Centre,” said Shuckburgh.
“We are very grateful to have him being an ambassador for not only United Way, but also our BBBS program. He has raised a lot of awareness about the program and the need for Big Brothers. And he has done it in a very eloquent way.
“We are thankful to Deacon for being the face of our Big Brothers program and for speaking on behalf of HYC to our Town Council and other organizations.”
“I am also pleased that Deacon can see the big picture and wants to give back in the way of becoming a mentor himself, soon as an In School Mentor, and later in life as a Big Brother!”
Shuckburgh noted that Deacon is really the personification of why folks would join the program.
“Because you are able to get so much out of it, but also you can give so much back, too,” she explained. “Volunteering really improves our mental health and makes us feel more alive.
“I would quote Deacon’s Big Brother Ralph when I say that you get as much out of it as you are giving and it is not a huge commitment; the length of a hockey game on TV or a show on Netflix could be spent on something that makes a huge difference in both a volunteer’s life as well as a child or youth’s.”