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For one West Kelowna family, the YMCA Beyond the Bell program is making a big difference in their lives.

The YMCA Beyond the Bell program is an after school initiative aimed at kids with a variety of challenges, be they social or related to learning skills such as math or literacy. Participants are selected by the school principal and attend the program three afternoons per week. Currently the program is operating at George Pringle Elementary in West Kelowna and is entirely funded by donors in the community.

For Tanya, the impact on her daughter Sophia has been dramatic. Now in her second year attending the Beyond the Bell program, Sophia is on a path to success.

“I cannot even describe to you the difference in my daughter. She is kind of a nervous child and had difficulty making friends and knowing how to treat them. She struggled with school work as well”, said Tanya. “Since then the changes in my Sophia have been so amazing. She is so much more social, nicer to her friends and less anxious with others. Her grades are improving and her attitude is so positive.”

“YMCA Beyond the Bell is proven to help children with critical social skills, literacy, math, nutrition and more,” said Allyson Graf, General Manager Community and Strategic Initiatives with the YMCA of Okanagan. “However, more children in the Okanagan need assistance than we can currently provide. We need financial support from the community to maintain and grow this program into the future.”

Many of the kids who attend YMCA Beyond the Bell come from low-income households and haven’t grown up with the same resources as their peers. Without access to early learning opportunities such as preschool or extracurricular activities, kids often enter kindergarten behind and the ‘achievement gap’ only gets larger from there. The YMCA of Okanagan wants to ensure that every child has access to programs for their health and development regardless of their financial circumstance.

If you want to help make a difference in a child’s life, you can. The 11th annual YMCA Cycle for Strong Kids fundraiser takes place on Sunday, May 29 at the H2O Adventure + Fitness Centre. Sign up today to ride a stationary bike for 45 minutes and raise pledges for your ride or donate to a rider or team. New this year, families can sign up and take part in an easy, scenic family bike ride along the Mission Greenway. All proceeds from the event will help children, individuals and families in the Okanagan.

“Sophia and I are so grateful for the program and to the donors that fund it because we couldn’t otherwise afford an after school program. It came at the perfect time in Sophia’s life,” said Tanya.