Like running, leadership seems natural and innate to those who are good at it. But the best leaders and runners are aware that each is a skill, and requires work and practice. They are also skills that can be learned by everyone, and from an early age.
It’s never too early to begin learning how to be a good leader. That’s why the Toronto-area organization Future Possibilities for Kids began its programming nearly 20 years ago.
“The founders realized that there was a gap in terms of kids from underserved communities having programming to build confidence by having a role as a part of the community,” says Rickesh Lakhani, Future Possibilities for Kids’ executive director. “Our programs and volunteer kidcoaches help create a goal to help kids develop leadership and life skills for doing good in their community. It’s completely free, and we also take care of all the coaching training for our volunteers.”
Lakhani says that joining the Scotiabank Charity Challenge during marathon weekend has been both a perfect fit for their organization, and a great opportunity to raise funds and awareness. “We started participating in the challenge in 2015, and last year we raised over $10,000,” says Lakhani, who has run the 5K with one of his three children tagging along in a running stroller each year. He points out that the funds are crucial for this quickly growing “small but mighty” organization. “The money basically goes to everywhere our other funding efforts do not,” he says. The organization offers free buses for participants, along with healthy snack options, and Lakhani says that’s where this year’s funds will go, among other essential areas of need.
This is also a crucial period for finding new kidcoach volunteers, as they are currently actively recruiting for next month’s new set of programming. “It’s a very reasonable commitment,” Lakhani points out. “Kidcoaches commit to 30-minute phone calls, and one meet up.” Kidcoaches are typically young professionals in their 20s and 30s, but come from all walks of life and everyone who is motivated to make a difference in a child’s life is welcomed.
The organization currently runs two main programs focused on leadership and doing good within the community. “One example of a project was a newcomer club one of our participants started in their grade school in Markham, Lakhani says. “The kids started it because he had recently moved to the area, and felt alone and isolated, so he decided to help others who felt like he had.”
Along with a Kidcoach, which is an adult volunteer, participants aged 9-12 develop and learn how to sell their ideas, influence others and work towards a tangible goal. These projects are run throughout the GTA, particularly in areas of heightened need, such as Regent Park, Jane-Finch, Markham and Scarborough.
The organization also runs a summer camp program, which promotes a positive team environment. “The kids will do things like organize a free car wash, where they also teach participants about animals, or host a free lemon-aid stand, where they will educate themselves and passersby about hunger and thirst,” Lakhani points out. “The most charming project to date was no doubt a smile-a-thon, held by program participants on a street corner to brighten people’s day. “Once you get a taste for being in service to others you don’t want to stop,” Lakhani contends.
Scotiabank’s Executive Champion, Clinton Braganza, who has a hand in all six running events sponsored by the Bank, decided this year to run in support of Future Possibilities for Kids. “I believe that developing leadership skills is essential for a young person’s growth and future success,” Braganza says, as he prepares for the 5K on Sunday morning. “I also believe that all young people should have access to learning and developing leadership skills, regardless of their circumstances.”
Braganza feels that the fit makes perfect sense. “At Scotiabank, we believe that investing in young people is the pathway to community prosperity.” And he’s excited to test out his fitness in the 5K along with his wife Holly, who will also be running. “I try to get out a few times a week,” Braganza says. “I find running isn’t only good for the body, but also the mind.”