Zachary Oberst took to the skies for the first time in his life thanks to the Red Deer and District Boys and Girls Club.
Oberst, 17, was one of three Red Deerian club members to board a plane for the first time when they flew to Ottawa for the National Youth Conference in May.
“I freaked out when I found out I was going to get on a plane because I’ve never travelled anywhere in my life. The furthest I’d been was Edmonton or Calgary,” said Oberst, who has been a club member for seven years.
There were no nerves for Oberst before the flight, just excitement, he said.
“Takeoff gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush – I didn’t really expect that,” he said. “It’s something I wanted to do for a long time, but we’ve never really had the money to travel.”
The Boys and Girls Club of Canada has partnered with WestJet for the past 10 years, which donates flights to club members. Being a member of the club means a lot to Oberst.
“It’s like a second family to me,” he said. “I’ve made most of my friends there over the past seven years.”
Oberst, the two other first-time flyers from Red Deer and a Calgary girl were featured in a national club video that followed them on their flight. Oberst’s mother, Tracy Harper, said he’s become a “Red Deer celebrity” after the video was released.
Harper said she can’t thank the Red Deer Boys and Girls Club enough for giving her son this experience.
“We were thrilled for him. He’s been involved in the Boys and Girls Club for a long time … and this was a really exciting opportunity for him,” she said.
Les Waite, Red Deer Boys and Girls Club program manager, said he was excited to see three local members featured in the video.
“They were quite ecstatic to be given that opportunity,” said Waite. “It’s exciting to see we’re getting our youths some opportunities they wouldn’t normally get.”
Jacquie Boyd, Youth HQ executive director, said the Boys and Girls program has left a significant mark on former members.
“We have one former member just drop off a cheque for $1,000 and he’s done that for the sixth or seventh year in a row. It goes to show how much this means to the youths,” she said.