The history of the Kinsmen in our valley began in 1912, with a group of 12 to 16 farmers and ranchers that would get together mostly for social purposes, but if there were people in need within the community, these men would organize ways to help out. It became what they did; identify where they could help the community as a group, and that became their purpose.
In 1920, Harold A. Rogers, known in Kin Canada circles as “Founder Hal,” founded the first Kinsmen club in Hamilton, Ontario. Rogers, a 21-year-old, had just returned from First World War and his father, a well-known Rotarian, encouraged him to join the Rotary Club. Rogers was rejected because the Rotary Club would not allow two members from the same business establishment.
Not a person to be outdone, Rogers decided to create a new club. As a result of his initiative, a small group of like-minded men gathered for a dinner meeting on February 20, 1920, and formed what became known as the Kinsmen Club of Hamilton, Canada’s first Kinsmen Club.
The name “Kinsmen” came from an article Roger’s father read, in the Saturday Evening Post, that stated Mark Twain had stayed at a literary club in New York City called the Kinsmen Club, and for young Rogers, the name stuck. The name was formally adopted in 1942.
The Telkwa group formally joined and became the Bulkley Valley Kinsmen in 1958.
Each club independently determines what needs in their community they would like to assist with and often partners with municipalities and/or local non-profit organizations to meet those needs.
The projects vary from club to club, but some examples include; providing funds to hospitals and local organizations, supplying resources or services to local schools, assisting with the building of community housing, building play structures, as they did in Woodland Park in Telkwa.
They hold toy and food drives, and in the Bulkley Valley, host community events such as the Telkwa BBQ, demolition derby, ball tournament, and always a favourite on Labour day Monday, beef on a bun.
This year marks the 109th anniversary of these events, which is the longest consecutively running event in B.C.
In years past, the Kinsmen also held raft races on the Bulkley River, the infamous toy duck races known as “from bridge to bridge,” and they built the stage which has hosted many concerts in Telkwa.
But the big event for the Bulkley Valley Kinsmen is the annual Telkwa BBQ, the focus of which is much greater than simply entertaining.
The Bulkley Valley Kinsmen Club’s mission is to make its community a better place to live by helping to foster relationships between citizens, businesses, and other community groups. The club comprises people who live in Telkwa and have a personal stake in the quality of life here.
Members meet regularly to socialize, network, and plan events that are designed to improve the quality of life for all residents of Telkwa and the region.
In 2016, the Bulkley Valley Kinettes merged with the Bulkley Valley Kinsmen and now have between 20 to 30 active members between the ages of 20 and 50.
“I’m a lifelong member, with 25 years of service with the Kinsmen. I’m a huge supporter, as they have and continue to do a lot of good in our area” Leroy Dekens said.
In recent years, the Kinsmen have supported a Canada-wide campaign to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Last May the group clocked over 25 kilometres while social distancing and raised over $2,000 for their cause.
The Kinsmen group in the last year has done online events, such as the “Zoom with Santa,” the “Kin-Kindness Challenge” and the popular firewood raffle, that not only gives away firewood but a log splitter to the lucky winner.
This raffle is happening again this year, with the winner announced in October. Tickets will be available at this weekend’s (Sept. 4-6) Telkwa BBQ from any Kinsmen member.