The Club has enjoyed continued success and growth since 1956 from its initial focus of programs for boys. Today, we continue to enhance our program offerings for boys, girls, youths, families and seniors, to align to the needs within our community.
The Canadian Legion Memorial Boys' Club was opened in 1956 by the Royal Canadian Legion, Roosevelt Branch #002 and Vimy Branch, to help keep delinquent boys away from the moral and physical dangers of the streets. About 40 boys attended on a regular basis and very soon, the Legion found their facilities and resources far too limited.
In 1964, a house on Simcoe Street became the Club House and boys enjoyed a games room, lounge and carpentry shop. Until then, volunteers had been the only supervision but within a year, membership grew to 230 and paid staff was needed. After continuous growth and great success, the building at the current location of 184 Horton Street was purchased in 1968. The Boys & Girls Club of London moved into their new building in 1969. The former school, cigar factory and then Union Gas surplus warehouse and service center was transformed to provide metal and woodworking shops, auto and bicycle repair shops, a photography laboratory and lounge. Girls became members shortly thereafter and membership increased significantly.
In 1974, an indoor swimming pool, change rooms and a gymnasium were added as the population grew to over 1,200 children and youth and our name was changed to Legion Memorial Boys' & Girls' Club. 1976 was the inaugural year for the annual H.W. Coulson Swim-a-Thon, a successful fundraiser which supports Club programs. Although the Legion continued to support the Club through various fundraising efforts, 1978 brought the acceptance by the United Way as a member agency to secure additional funding through their campaign. With this funding, the Club's membership continued to grow. In 1979, our name was changed to Memorial Boys' & Girls' Club.
Plans were developed in 1985 to enable the Club to expand programs for 2,000 plus members and service their needs into the 1990s. An addition was opened which included a new front entry, program space and additional office facilities. In 1987, the Horton Street Seniors Centre was opened for 60 members. The Club was now used during the day and senior citizens had an affordable place for recreational and social events. The London Rib-Fest, a five day outdoor festival held on the Civic Holiday weekend in Victoria Park began in 1988.
In 1996, another 25,200 sq ft was added to the facility to include increased program space and the ClubHouse Café. Forest City Signs was opened as an entrepreneurial opportunity for job training and experience and to assist in funding for the Club's operations.
In 2000, our name was changed to the Boys and Girls Club of London to reflect the association with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ontario and Canada. Annual visits for children and youth is now over 36,000. The Horton Street Seniors' Centre now boasts over 1,500 members. The Transit Department uses 21 wheelchair accessible vans and buses to bring children, youth and seniors to and from the Club. The Kelly Jarmain and Family Aquaplex was opened in 2006 which provides a new pool, more program space, landscaped parking and green space around the Club. This new addition brings the total square footage to over 100,000. In 2006, we celebrated our 50th Anniversary of service to London and area and are thankful to all of those who have come before us and continue to assist us in providing quality services to those who need us.
The development of the M.A.P. (My Action Plan to Education) Program has provided the foundation for supporting enhanced academic skills for children and youth and has evolved into further programming providing advocacy, mentorship, technology, leadership skills, career guidance, community involvement and accessibility to higher education through financial support. We have a dedicated vision to ensure that all members of the community discover and achieve their dreams to be healthy, successful and active participants in society.
The Club has had five Executive Directors during its lifetime - Bob Fallis (1965-1973), Perry Mitchell (1973 - 1974), Roy Adair (1974 -1978), Don Donner (1978-2013) and Chris Harvey (2010-Present).
In March 2021, the Boys and Girls Club of London became BGC London because Clubs across the country open their doors to all kids and teens and we believe our name should reflect that. Removing gender from our name modernizes the BGC brand and echoes the inclusive practices we’re known for without straying too far from our history and national brand awareness. It also embraces the fact that we serve young people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities.
New name, same legacy: 65+ years of creating opportunities for hundreds of London area children and teens. (Legally, our organization name is still Boys’ and Girls’ Club of London.)
Currently, over 35 full time and 40 part time staff provide programs and services, drive children and seniors and offer administrative support. Over 400 volunteers participate every year, sharing their knowledge and talents with children and seniors in many roles including special events, programming and leadership.