A group of youth who were planning on taking their mental health outreach into the community have shifted their focus as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The YMCA Community Action Network (YCAN), run by the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, began with youth in Alliston who were hoping to attend events like the town’s Potato Festival in August to distribute information to the community.
The pandemic put a stop to that, but it didn’t stop them from doing good deeds. They turned their attention to health-care workers.
“Their mental health was kind of declining and the youth picked up on that and said, ‘What can we do?’” said Shane Morrison, program co-ordinator for YCAN with the local YMCA.
They decided to send glow-in-the-dark bracelets and virtual cards to those on the front line at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, Royal Victoria Regional health Centre and Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare.
Each bracelet reads “L;fe” and there’s a reason they used the semicolon. An author can choose to end a sentence with a period or opt for a semicolon and continue the sentence, Morrison explained.
“The semicolon represents survival and overcoming hardships, and the glow-in-the-dark bracelets represent the light in the darkness,” he said. “They’re putting their own lives on the line to help everyone else.”
The gesture has been well received by the health-care workers.
“They are extremely thankful that the youth have taken the time to recognize them and do this for them,” Morrison said.
The group’s work isn’t over yet, though. Phase 2 of the project will see members encouraging people in Simcoe County and Muskoka to donate to their local food banks and other organizations that are helping people in need.
“One of the youth had a connection with the food bank in Alliston. They wanted to keep that part of the project going, but they realized the need wasn’t only in Alliston; it’s everywhere,” Morrison said. “They’re hoping if they get their story out there, it will inspire similar acts of kindness.”
YCAN is run by the YMCA in 17 locations in the country. This is the first YCAN project being undertaken by the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. The local group includes Lindsay Cameron, Parker Little and Emmalea Little, three members of a larger YCAN group made up of people between the ages of 15 and 30