By day, the Bowen Island Children's Centre (BCC) is filled with little wild things attending both pre-school and daycare, but on the evening of February 1st the place will be taken over by their parents and other monstrous adults who will take the place over at the third annual Wild Child Party. DJ Allan Saugstad of Island Discovery School will be part of the party's live-music offerings, alongside the Vancouver band Freeflow, and Peter King will be offering partiers a free ride home at the end of the night. The party is a great excuse for parents to get out for the night, but the money raised through the sale of $20 tickets as well as other fundraising activities and corporate donations will go to a good cause: the Gail Taylor Bursary Fund, which will help parents who otherwise might not have the money send their kids to pre-school.
"If you don't qualify for a government subsidy, you can apply for sponsorship through this fund," says BCC's Executive Director, Ann Silberman. "If you don't have the money to send your child to pre-school, or if your financial situation has changed, or if your child needs extra support to be at pre-school, you'll qualify. And your application is entirely anonymous to the board that divides up the money."
Last year, $8000 went into the bursary fund helping six families.
For families with more than one child, the cost of childcare and pre-school can definitely add up. To put a child in pre-school for two days a week at BICC, the cost is $173 per month. For the three day a week program, the cost is $257 per month.
Jill Kenney is one of the Wild Child Party organizers, and has three kids.
"By the time our youngest is in kindergarten, we will have had a child in pre-school for six consecutive years," says Kenney. "Fortunately, we've never had to defer a payment, but in the interest of offering this to our kids, we have definitely made personal sacrifices. My husband had dropped his recreational hockey, we rarely eat out, and our personal fitness definitely suffers. And, yes, we have been able to manage the costs of childcare, but the help we get from my in-laws with the kids makes a critical difference."
It was almost 20 years ago now that Ross Allan put his three kids through BCC. He says that through his work selling insurance and financial planning, he sees that young families today face extra stress.
"A lot of services here on-Island used to be a lot cheaper," says Allan. "But they weren't priced realistically in the sense that they weren't making enough money to be able to pay people properly. I think now, prices for things are actually more realistic, but if we want to make Bowen to be accessible to young families, we have to find ways that are internal to this community to make it that way."
Allan's company, Ross Allan Financial, covers the cost of the band for the Wild Child party and also makes a direct contribution of $4000 to the Gail Taylor Bursary Fund. Allan says that from a business perspective, he sees a benefit to giving more to the community than simply the service he's paid for.
"Also, I think that in a small community we have a chance to create cohesiveness over the long-term. It's really neat to see that the young people who used to babysit my kids have kids at the pre-school now. I guess the next step is for my own kids to have kids going there."
Silberman, who was a major advocate of the $10-a-day child care plan scrapped by Premier Christy Clark, likes to stress the economic benefits of making pre-school and daycare affordable.
"The numbers are simple," she says. "For every dollar you put into early childhood education, you'll get six back."