Whether it was sports or music, most people had “something in our life that was awesome” growing up, says Chris Roos, co-ordinator of YouthReach.
But hundreds of children across Simcoe County cannot afford the fees associated with extra-curricular activities. Accessibility is one of the issues the City of Barrie wants to tackle with its youth-friendly committee.
“If families are … facing some barriers, often with kids, they can’t get into extra-curricular activities. We don’t want that kid not to try out because they know there’s a $200 fee,” Roos says. “There’s so many advantages for kids to have healthy outlets.”
YouthReach, a non-profit agency that aims to help low-income youth get involved in recreational activities, is one of several local organizations working with the city-run Barrie Youth Friendly Committee.
The group has several goals, including creating youth-friendly spaces to work, play and volunteer, giving a voice to Barrie’s youth, and making recreational programs and meaningful volunteer experiences available.
Lindsay Lock, a public health nurse with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said the committee is an opportunity to pool resources and knowledge to help youth stay active.
Lock said the health unit disseminates information on healthy lifestyles, such as encouraging young people to use active transportation options.
“(It’s) opening doors for them to be more physically active,” she said.
The city first gained a bronze-level youth-friendly status in 2010 from PlayWorks, which recognizes communities for youth friendliness.
Barrie is already working on its application for 2017 to hold its bronze status – the first of four levels, according to Nancy Stratton, chair of the city’s youth-friendly committee and recreation programmer at Holly Community Centre.
Bronze means the municipality meets 10-11 of 16 criteria, which include youth easily being able to find information about activities in the community and providing facilities dedicated to youth play.
The city’s end goal is to meet all 16 criteria and gain platinum-level status, said Stratton.
“This program recognizes the great work that communities are doing in ensuring their youth have on-going access to a diversity of play,” she said, adding ‘play’ refers to anything young people do in their spare time.
“The City of Barrie wants to be a place where families see the value placed on youth engagement by providing a large variety of options for youth to grow and become outstanding members of society.”
• Anyone interested in joining (youths ages 13 to 19 are eligible) the Barrie Youth Friendly Committee can email firstname.lastname@example.org.