Kids Club founders, husband-and-wife team named Blyth Citizens of the Year
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Joe Gahan and Megan Lee-Gahan, founders of the Blyth Kids Club, have been named Citizen of the Year Award winners for Blyth.
The husband-and-wife team have been working hard this year to both bring programming to the village for its young people and keep the Blyth and District Community Centre busy every night of the week after talk of potential closure dominated the headlines earlier this year. This comes after Gahan had worked to bring soccer back to the village, initiating a grassroots effort to engage young people in The Beautiful Game, working with nets at Blyth Lions Park last year, which is where the seeds for the Blyth Kids Club began to grow.
The club offers nightly activities at the community centre, including soccer, roller hockey, arts and crafts, roller skating and rollerblading, and more as part of its weekly offerings. However, it has since expanded to include monthly disco parties that have been well attended and even movie nights at Blyth Lions Park, which have, recently, included live music, activities, food and more.
The club has worked closely with the Blyth Lions Club, often using the park and its volunteers working in conjunction with one another, but the Kids Club has also attracted the interest and support of just about everyone in Blyth. Service clubs from the Blyth Legion and Legion Ladies Auxiliary to the aforementioned Lions, as well as many businesses and private citizens have donated money to the club in an effort to see it grow - and grow it has.
As a result of this support and fundraising, many of the club’s activities in the late stages of the summer have been free for children, which the pair says has been nice to offer, ensuring that cost isn’t a barrier to children enjoying all that the club has to offer them.
“The whole concept of the Blyth Kids Club is to provide something for our kids in the community, something fun to do, grow their confidence and help them make some friends along the way, all while utilizing the facility we have in this town,” said Lee-Gahan to The Citizen in a story back in April. “I grew up in Blyth and we moved back after over 16 years [in] Toronto, to give our children a childhood like I had here in this amazing community, and the Blyth arena was a huge part of that. The arena was the centre of our community, with dances, banquets, weddings, etc., and some of my core childhood memories are in that building, and we hope to bring back some of that so our children have the same as I did.
“We are running as a fully non-profit, volunteer-based group, and with that we need as much support from the community, be it volunteers to help run the door or help with the games or donations. If you don’t have time to spare, any monetary donations would be greatly appreciated, with any extra money raised, going to help grow this club offering as many activities as we can get the help to do, while keeping costs down for everyone.”
Speaking to The Citizen in July, Lee-Gahan said that the club frequently welcomes between 50 and 60 young people on its soccer nights and between 10 and 30 young people on other nights. The first disco party saw nearly 120 young people take part (they had planned on 100) and the first movie night brought about 75 people to Blyth Lions Park to watch The Goonies, though that night represented somewhat of a soft launch for the event. At the End-of-Summer Party in the Park, which featured a screening of The Sandlot, dozens of families were in Blyth for what many said was one of the best nights of the summer.
Last month, Gahan even spoke to North Huron Council as a delegation in regards to reclaiming some township property in order to establish a proper soccer pitch for the village. Council took his request under advisement and has yet to report back.
In addition, the pair hope to keep the club active through the winter months, even as the arena will be busy with broomball and hockey.
On Gahan’s side of things, he has become a bit of a local celebrity as Irish Joe, the leader of The Lucky Charms, which has become the go-to band for many public events and fundraisers in the area. The band has often played in exchange for charitable donations, more recently using its concerts as an opportunity to raise money for the Kids Club.
North Huron Publishing has been awarding Citizens of the Year in Blyth and Brussels for nearly 40 years, adding a third category last year to honour someone from throughout Huron County who has made a difference in their community.
Nominations are made by members of the community and the winner is then chosen by a panel of the past five winners of the award.
On Nov. 23, North Huron Publishing will be returning to an in-person Citizen of the Year Award night to honour all three of this year’s Citizen of the Year Award winners, as well as 2020 winners Bob Kellington (posthumously) in Brussels and Annie Sparling in Blyth, 2021 winners Zoellyn Onn in Brussels and David Cartwright (posthumously) in Blyth and 2022 winners Lissa Kolkman in Blyth, Margaret McInroy in Brussels and Karen Webster as the first-ever Huron County Citizen of the Year. The event will begin at 7 p.m. at Trinity Anglican Church in Blyth.
Past winners of the award in the Blyth area are: Evalena Webster, 1986; Frank and Cenetta Bainton, 1987; Winona McDougall, 1988; Margaret Whyte, 1989; Simon Hallahan, 1990; Dr. Richard Street, 1991; Bill and Maxine Seers, 1992; Margaret Caldwell, 1993; Helen Gowing, 1994; Don Scrimgeour, 1995; John Stewart, 1996; Janet Amos, 1997; Betty Battye, 1998; Robb Finch, Dave Cook, Brent Scrimgeour and Doug Walker, 1999; Murray Siertsema, 2000; Charlie Shaw, 2001; Lavern Clark, 2002; Bev Blair and Thelma Johnston, 2003; Steven Sparling, 2004; Don “Barney” Stewart, 2005; Lois van Vliet, 2006; Janice Henry, 2007; Joe Hallahan, 2008; Brock and Janis Vodden, 2009; Jean Nethery, 2010; Kay Hesselwood, 2011; Steve Howson, 2012; Barbara Bosman, 2013; Marian Hallahan, 2014; Nellie Mason, 2015; Ernie Phillips, 2016; Ric McBurney, 2017; Carl Nesbitt, 2018; Jane Smyth, 2019; Annie Sparling, 2020; David Cartwright (posthumous), 2021 and Lissa Kolkman in 2022.