It can be a great sense of security to know that someone has your back.
Mentors at the Boys Club Network (BCN) have the backs of adolescent boys across B.C. who are at risk of falling through the cracks.
The charity — founded by a team of high school administrators, teachers, counsellors, and youth and wellness workers — has various chapters across the province, one in the Comox Valley.
“It’s really, really effective,” said Gary Fort, a mental health outreach counsellor at the John Howard Society of the North Island who facilitates the local BCN. “We’re trying to provide them with as many healthy adult role models as possible.”
John Howard collaborates with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and Comox Valley Schools to deliver the program — which is funded by a group of philanthropist entrepreneurs, and supported by more than 200 mentors from all walks of life. The mentor list includes names such as retired hockey star Pavel Bure and former boxing champion Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini.
Through activities, curriculum and scholarships, BCN supports boys 12-18 years who are seeking connection. Many are in foster care.
Fort is working with a dozen boys at Isfeld Secondary in Courtenay. BCN also operates at Glacier View Secondary and at Lake Trail Middle School, where a teacher has continued the program. Through mindfulness exercises, mentors help boys get in touch with their feelings to be more effective in relationships. A big part, Fort said, is breaking that “toxic masculinity” that says men don’t cry or show emotions.
“We only show the non-vulnerable emotion, which is anger,” he said. “We try and break that stigma, help them to understand their emotions, process them and express them in a more effective way.”
The ministry has provided funds for the program, which helps pay for weekly pizzas, and fun activities. Before COVID hit, Fort would take his charges to Vancouver to watch a professional soccer or hockey game. Another fun activity was racing cars in Osoyoos. Some of the boys experienced a glimpse of life in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
According to feedback from leaders and educators, most boys in BCN chapters graduate from high school. Many plan to continue their education at college or university.
“Often all it takes is just one adult that shows that they care that can change the trajectory of a young boy’s life,” Fort said.