It was just a normal Friday-night Grand Rapids Griffins game, with fans donning jerseys, cheering on the home team and enjoying $2 hot dogs. For one group of young revelers, a night of normal fun is a luxury that can be out of reach, making the hockey game a chance to simply be kids for the evening. “I think a lot of the kiddos we serve wouldn’t be able to normally take advantage of events like this,” said Matthew Perin, who oversees Arbor Circle’s Community Living Supports program.
Perin and his co-workers accompanied youths to an early January game who are either staying at Arbor Circle’s Bridge Youth Shelter or receiving community-based support through the non-profit’s Family Based Services. The group was invited to attend as part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s sponsorship of the evening game, which highlighted BCBSM’s #MIKidsCan initiative. Arbor Circle’s mission is to transform the lives of children, adults and families facing mental health, substance use and family concerns. Each year, over 20,000 people are helped through more than 50 programs across 11 counties in West Michigan. The Bridge shelter program is available to those ages 10-17 who are facing homelessness, considering running away or struggling with instability at home. Throughout their stay, a team of caring staff provide counseling, social support groups, and case management to assist the youth in returning to safe and stable housing. Family Based Services include individual and family therapy for a range of intensive mental health concerns. Children from this program are often matched with mentors as part of a Community Living Supports program. Youth in attendance at the game were able to go and spend time in a positive atmosphere with their mentors. Mentors for this program are all professionally trained employees at Arbor Circle who work with kids receiving counseling services. Mentors coordinate with therapists to ensure mentoring time aligns with the goals of the treatment plan. Perin said mentors might work with teens on hygiene issues, help kids learn how to set boundaries and improve on their behavioral issues. He said opportunities like the Griffins game allow for a fun night where kids can let loose a little, just like everyone else.
“I think it’s just a place where they can be themselves,” he said. The work that Arbor Circle does revolves around helping families make positive strides toward conquering their individual problems. Watching a child or family move from a point of turmoil to a place of peace is immensely satisfying, Perin explained. Although community volunteers aren’t eligible to be mentors through the Community Living Supports program, Director of Community Engagement and Advancement Janelle Hill said support from organizations and individuals is always welcome through basic needs collections, donation of group supplies and gift cards for activities, or providing a meal. To learn more about these and other opportunities, contact Arbor Circle’s Community Engagement Team by emailing email@example.com. For more information about the services offered through Arbor Circle, visit their website. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
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Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan