Why kids like the Beyond Wild youth program:
“I really like to come here cause everbodie is nice to me and its fun.”
“I like it because I feel good when someone is left out I join in and make them feel better. It feels good.”
“I like going to beyond wild because if some won is mean to me a difrnet preson stiks up for me.”
Forget the spelling, program manager Brandy Dyer says. The intent of the messages is clear and that’s what is most important.
Dyer appeared before town council on June 28 to present a message that the youth program, for 10- to 13-year-olds, is worthy of the $10,000 in annual funding cut by council in the 2011-12 budget.
Managed by Dyer, with assistance from her fiancé, Grady Hunt (a teacher), and other volunteers, the program has grown significantly since she took over in April.
“We have had over 50 individual youth attend nine events,” she said. “To give out an idea of an average turnout, we had 18 children attend dance party night, 22 kids attend swimming at the pool night and 30 kids attend the drama workshop night. The youth and parents have continued to recommend the program to their friends and family, increasing the program usage.”
Beyond Wild has been operating, sometimes sporadically, for about eight years, but this is its first year in a regular facility. Most activities are held in a Cook Street building purchased recently by umbrella organization Kootenai Community Center Society (KCCS). The building also is home to the Grizzly Out of School Care, Creston Learning Centre (an alternate high school program) and, soon, two apartments for a youth residential independence program.
“Having a ‘home’ is really important,” Dyer said on Thursday. “It provides important continuity.”
Several years ago, under the leadership of the late Coun. Lawrence Lavender, town council committed $10,000 annually for three years to the program. Funding was eliminated in budget discussions this spring, and then a plea from KCCS executive director Dina Bambrick resulted in a $1,000 grant.
Dyer, who operates Imagine Ink, a printing and design business, said she took on the job because she wants to give something back to the community she grew up in, and which was so supportive when her husband, Chris, was killed in an accident several years ago. She started out by volunteering, and then became manager when Kate Simpson resigned.
“I’m at an advantage because I know a lot of people and my kids are around that age,” she said. “I’ve built a Beyond Wild website and we get lots of hits from Facebook, too.”
When she first took over the program, “we were getting five to 10 kids out,” she said. “Every week we keep getting more and more. Kids tell their friends and they come, then they tell their friends and they come. It will just keep growing — if we have the funding.”
Dyer presented town council with an operating budget of about $35,000, but she wants to run the program at a surplus so that she can create an endowment fund that will help support Beyond Wild in the future.
“You are a grandfather,” she said to Coun. Jerry Schmalz. “Wouldn’t you pay $200 a year to help make sure she doesn’t get into trouble?”
“I’d pay $500,” he replied.
Council will be considering Dyer’s funding request at its July 12 meeting and responses from some other funders are pending.
For more information on Beyond Wild and to register children, go to www.beyondwildcreston.com.
“What better investment can we make than in our children?” Dyer said. “They need to have positive, healthy, caring social opportunities where they can learn self-respect and feel loved.”