By THERESA WELLS, Connect Contributor
On occasion, terrible tragedies act as a catalyst for the birth of amazing things. It is difficult to take a tremendous loss and turn it into an organization that benefits an entire community, but the Justin Slade Youth Foundation (JSYF), named after the young man who inspired it, is one example.
“The Justin Slade Youth Foundation was formed in November 2004, when a tragic car accident took the life of 21-year-old Justin Slade. With the money that people donated in his memory his parents started the foundation in the hopes of leaving a legacy based on what meant the most to Justin – helping people,” says Jason Beck, Executive Director of the Youth Foundation.
In just over a decade, JSYF has grown into one of the most respected grassroots organizations for local youth by providing a place where young adults can interact with peers in a safe environment while developing critical skills necessary for navigating the tough teen years – and beyond.
Says Beck: “Our mission is quite simple yet far reaching: We Empower Youth. This means that we always do our best to provide relevant programs and services to help youth become all that they can be without barriers. The Dugout located in the Haxton Centre at Borealis Park offers youth a variety of activities to participate in including pool, video games, arts and crafts and a variety of special events. We also offer “JSYF presents”, which is various types of programming that are tailored to the needs and interests of the youth.”
Since opening the doors at JSYF the organization has reached over 10,000 youth, either through the drop in centre or through programs.
“One of the things we are most proud of is the fact that we offer ALL of our programs and events free of charge to youth. We believe all youth, no matter their socio-economic status, should be seen and treated as equals when they enter our doors. We have youth for whom our centre is a second home. We are someone they can always count on to be there for them and to be a safe place where they can be themselves and find the supports they are sometimes lacking in their lives,” says Beck.
“We are very excited to be in the process of transforming a school bus we had donated by First Canada into a mobile programming unit. This bus will travel throughout the city and even our region offering unique programs for youth in the community, meaning our programs will have even greater reach,” said Beck.
The future looks bright for JSYF, too. “We are very excited to be in the process of transforming a school bus we had donated by First Canada into a mobile programming unit. This bus will travel throughout the city and even our region offering unique programs for youth in the community, meaning our programs will have even greater reach. We are also very excited to help build capacity with other youth serving agencies in the city and work together to address issues that are facing our teens today in a collaborative and effective manner. Together we are stronger!” Beck says, looking forward to continuing to build the legacy of Justin Slade and honouring his memory through the remarkable work of the Justin Slade Youth Foundation.
– Connect Weekly –