Monday, April 20, 2015

Empowering Our Kids for the Future #BrightWayForward

Two of the many things I love about my kid are his determination and his willingness to try new things. (Not new foods, for the record. Never new foods.) I'm always volunteering him to take part in media events and various activities, to review toys, or whatever else kid-focused comes my way. (I probably should start paying him or something ...) In the meantime, I just tell him we're doing this or that and toss him in the car. He's generally really good about it.

Last week I brought him along to a Community Gym event run by Tangerine Bank. It was to be a morning of basketball drills. Boo told me that basketball is NOT his favourite sport, but he was still excited for the event.  For the record, Boo is not an athlete. And I suspect he never will be. His talents lie elsewhere (music, science, drawing). But he still loves to play sports and get active with his peers. Even though he knows he's not the best, and he struggles to keep up, he always tries his hardest and has a good time.  I love that determination, and I think it fits well with Tangerine Bank's message of empowering and encouraging our youth, building self-confidence and giving them the skills to succeed at whatever they do.

Just look at that happy face! All ready to jump in and get moving!
The half-day Community Gym event was organised in partnership with Basketball Canada and UNITY charity. It involved a series of sessions focusing on basketball skills and team-building exercises. And there was a special guest as well. Steve Nash, two-time NBA MVP and General Manager of Canada's senior men’s national basketball team, is the Program Ambassador for Bright Way Forward. He joined the kids on the court, sharing his expertise, and later shared his story with them in an inspiring presentation. As he said, he decided at age 13 that he wanted to play pro basketball, and although he wasn't the tallest or the fastest, and he couldn't jump the highest, he played his best, developed his skills and achieved great success. The kids were really drawn into his talk, which he pitched at a perfect level for them. The energy was so positive and encouraging!

I took a lot of pictures and video while we were there. Here's just a little montage of some of the day's fun -

music source:

Steve posed for pictures with each group of kids after their training session.
Hanging with Steve Nash
The day was emceed by UNITY. This organisation, based in Toronto, works to empower youth to be leaders and role models in their communities, with a goal of healthy communities and safe schools for everyone. Their approach is young, using hip hop, break dancing and rap to speak to youth, and their school programs are designed in partnership with the youth involved to ensure relevance and interest. Three representatives shared their own stories and gave awesome performances for the crowd.  The kids were so excited by the break dancing and beat boxing! This was their language. Boo fancies himself a bit of a beat boxer, so he was thrilled!

With Steve & Mikey from UNITY
My overall lessons learned from the day? Kids are awesome, and if we encourage them and provide them with the life skills they need, they will succeed.  It's easy to lose hope or feel trapped in a life situation, but by sharing our stories we can show kids what is possible to achieve. Also? We can best reach kids by talking in their language and meeting them where they "live." UNITY is doing great work with empowering youth by accessing aspects of pop culture that are relevant to them and speak to their interests. That's way more powerful than boring old middle-aged mom speak, although we have a role to play as well.

To keep up to date on what's happening with Tangerine, Unity, and Basketball Canada, why not follow along on Twitter:

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Tangerine Bank. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own or those of my family.

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