Staff with Hope Mission, a not-for-profit Christian social care agency, have been busy connecting with kids and families through schools in the north part of Red Deer.
The Kids in Action after school program was launched last fall. Currently running in four schools in north Red Deer, Hope Mission has run Kids in Action since October of last year.
Organizers have said that more than 170 elementary school students have enrolled since that time.
Kids in Action is a mentorship and meal program where kids participate in fun activities and learn from mentors who model positive, healthy lifestyles.
“We recognized a need in Red Deer to provide quality youth programs and we hope to expand that programming to reach more kids and youth in the City,” said Kelly Row, Red Deer program manager.
The roots of the program go back to when staff and volunteers at Edmonton’s Hope Mission started seeing more youth hanging around the facility there. Staff felt that it was vital to get involved with kids and youth at early stages to help provide positive influences that could help them make good life choices down the road.
“The first contact I made was with the schools to see who was interested,” he said. There was significant interest right off the bat. “The principals were excited. They jumped right on board.”
Much of the Kids in Action program focuses on goal-setting and healthy lifestyles. At Kids in Action, kids are training to run the Kids in Action 5 km race in the summer. Through training hard and setting goals, kids learn strength and endurance, said Row.
“It’s a participation program. You don’t have to have a certain skill set, you don’t have to make a ‘cut’,” he explained. “You don’t have to come in with some sort of desire to play this or that. It’s mostly about participation and enjoying yourself. We also provide a healthy snack, and Loaves and Fishes also helps us with providing that.”
As to the 5 km run, it’s a culmination of the year’s activities. “It’s a wrap-up event. Each night of the week, we have a smaller group of kids – we meet a different group each night,” he said, adding that the run – which is set for June 11th at Great Chief Park – will be the first time everyone will be all together.
“We invite them, their families and friends down to a barbecue and the kids run the race,” he said. “We have a wrap-up party and a celebration for the whole thing.
“It’s also all about trying your best and taking part in each event,” he said. “Some kids come in and they are really shy. They’re almost fearful of some of this group activity.” But that changes as time goes by and the confidence builds.
“We also talk to them about how it’s great that we come together and treat each other so well in this gym. But there is a whole school around you – there are your teachers, your friends, and even people in your classes that you don’t get along with that well.
“You’ve got to learn to treat those people as well as we treat each other in here. That’s the challenge – to reach out beyond just this room. There are people you see everyday that need attention.”
Red Deer schools involved so far in Kids in Action include G.H. Dawe, Glendale, Normandeau and Aspen Heights.
“Mondays and Wednesdays we are at Dawe, Tuesdays we are Aspen Heights, Thursdays we are at Normandeau and on Fridays we are at Glendale.”
This past February, Hope Mission also launched a youth leadership program at Normandeau School. They will be working on developing leadership skills with students in Grades 6 to 8.
They are also partners with three North Hill neighbourhood churches and offered a Christmas celebration and family meal for the KIA participants and their families. “We partnered with Unity Baptist, Liberty Christian Assembly and Kentwood Alliance for this initiative and over 150 people attended.”
Hope Mission began in 1929 in Edmonton as a soup kitchen and men’s shelter. Today, the organization has grown into an Alberta-wide social care agency serving men, women, youth and children.
While continuing to serve the homeless and those experiencing poverty in Edmonton, Hope Mission is passionate about programs that build up healthy, confident kids. Eventually, they decided to reach out to other centres with programs like Kids in Action.
“In our work with the homeless and those who are struggling, we see how isolation, neglect, and abuse can impact a person’s life,” said Row. “So, we are here to mentor kids and encourage them as they grow up, so they don’t end up in those cycles of homelessness or poverty.”
Meanwhile, the Kids in Action 5K Race promotes an active lifestyle for kids, but more than that, kids experience the joy and satisfaction that comes with perseverance. There is also a need for volunteer help at the event, said Row. The goal is to pair each kid with an adult runner; a personal cheerleader for each step of the race, he said.
“We are also hoping to get some volunteers to come in once or twice before the race to run with their kid during the gym time. We are trying to connect people.”
Non-running volunteer roles are also needed.
Volunteer registration is open – visit www.hopemission.com/5KRace for more information.