About 25 boys from Sentinel secondary school walked alongside dozens of other male students from across the Lower Mainland on June 1 to raise money for Syrian refugees in Europe.
Presented by the Boys Club Network, the walk-a-thon began in Ambleside Park and followed the West Vancouver Seawall to 22nd Street before returning to the start point. The five-kilometre route was designed to represent the distance Syrian refugees travel by boat from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos.
The 200-plus walkers who participated raised an estimated $6,000 for the Radcliffe Foundation Refugee Crisis Fund. Those funds were to be matched by philanthropist and West Vancouver resident Frank Giustra, a founding patron of the Boys Club Network, who inspired members of the Sentinel chapter to organize the event after a talk he gave.
Now with a number of chapters in B.C., the Boys Club Network launched a decade ago at East Vancouver’s Templeton secondary as a positive mentorship program for at-risk youth.
“Many of those boys that are involved there do not have male mentorship in their lives. They’re kids that are disenfranchised from school simply because they’re often having to fight battles daily, tooth and nail, just for the basic necessities of life and existence,” says Sentinel principal Michael Finch, who helped found his high school’s chapter in 2011. “You come to the North Shore and we still have a population of students that can be disengaged, can be somewhat disenfranchised from school,” he adds.
At Sentinel, the club’s mandate is to provide a safe, respectful, and nurturing space for youth to gather and share their stories.
“It gives them a home base to feel connected and safe and accepted amongst their peers,” Finch says.
In its first year, the Sentinel club had fewer than 10 members, but has since expanded to more than 40 boys who regularly get involved in a range of leadership opportunities and community outreach work.
The program also invites male guest speakers to come share their stories and insight with the teens.
“We’re always looking for other men in a variety of roles that are interested and willing to come and participate in that,” Finch says.