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The Children’s Foundation partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids continues to grow

By: Leslie Green from Crain’s Content Studio

A Johns Hopkins study published in January 2022 reveals that “children facing relational and social risks are more likely to have mental, emotional, or behavioral health problems, but the negative impact of these problems on child resilience, self-regulation and school engagement can be offset by protective factors, such as strong caretaker-child connection and family resilience.”

The Children’s Foundation actively supports organizations that “offset such negative impacts” through positive youth development. One such organization is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids.

“The Children’s Foundation is now statewide, and our partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids continues to grow,” President & CEO of The Children’s Foundation, Larry Burns, said. “This partnership allows kids space and time to reflect on issues impacting their mental well-being.”

The Foundation provided two grants to help BGC Grand Rapids establish a dedicated mental health program, train staff and hire a full-time social worker.

“Our kids are typically low-income children with adverse childhood experiences that affect mental health,” said Director of Development Angie Stumpo. “We had a huge need for this program, and the grant from The Children’s Foundation got that ball rolling… which made it easier to get other big funding.”

Kristin Klose is the recently hired director of social and emotional earning for BGC Grand Rapids. She said everyone has emotional reactions and needs the right tools to process them properly.

One tool they use is the Cool Down Corner, where kids can go when they need to get their big emotions under control. It offers sensory and grounding tools, like fidget toys, stress balls, breathing cards, coloring books, paper with journaling prompts, a weighted blanket, noise canceling headphones, a sound machine, an essential oil diffuser and more.

Master of Social Work interns from Grand Valley State University run each Clubs’ Cool Down Corner and use one-on-one time with the children to help them build coping skills. The interns also connect with families to ensure their basic needs are met and that they can access necessary resources, such as school social workers.

Recently, a 10-year-old club member with a history of explosive tantrums was feeling overwhelmed in a gym setting. Recognizing this, he went to a corner to build with blocks until he was in control of his emotions.

Klose said success is when kids realize they need the corner without someone prompting them.

“With all the unfortunate things that occurred during the Covid pandemic, youngsters have suffered in many ways, but none is more concerning than their mental health,” Burns said.

“Combining youth development initiatives with physical activities is a true win-win situation.”

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