Every summer for the past 10 years, Choices for Youth has put together a dynamic and supportive recreation program for at-risk youth in St. John’s.

The goal – to engage young people in recreation activities, help youth build community relationships, desist from illegal activity and establish positive and effective coping strategies.

In St. John’s, youth make up 30 percent of the city’s total homeless population. Every year Choices for Youth supports up to 1,000 young people, by providing food, clothing, shelter, counselling, supportive programming, employment support, and crisis management.

Every Wednesday from June to August, 15 to 25 youth would meet at the Choices building at 12-16 Carters Hill Place, where staff would provide transportation to various activities out in the community.

This year, the outreach program and summer recreation student had the opportunity to work with several community members and local businesses to help create a fun and one of a kind recreation experience. Mochanopoly, EscapeQuest, Walnuts, Frontline Action, The Social Circus Program, St. John’s Juggling Club and Home of Fishing for Success were some of the local spaces who donated their time and facilities.

Over the years, a great deal of research has shown that recreational and extracurricular activities help create community and social ties for youth, and a propensity away from criminal activity. Unfortunately, many of the youth do not have access, opportunity, or financial means to engage in these types recreational activities.

The generosity and support from local businesses gave the young people the chance to visit places in their community that they had never seen. The activities, such as learning how to fish, rock climb, or how to ride a unicycle, provided a positive outlet for these young people, while simultaneously teaching them positive coping mechanisms.

Many of the youth fell in love with the activities and continued to frequent these locations once the recreation program ended in the fall. Fortunately, the support from local businesses extended beyond one single event and discounted rates were provided for many of the youth who wanted to come by after.

After receiving, ten day free passes and discounted monthly memberships from Walnuts, several of the youth began rock climbing as a safe and recreational coping strategy to combat stress and anxiety.

The support from local businesses and individuals within the community not only provided a positive outlet and enjoyable summer for these young people but allowed them to learn more about their community while being active.