Funding announced for Brock boxing program supporting youth survivors of family violence

Youth affected by family violence in two Canadian cities will benefit from Brock University’s expanded Shape Your Life (SYL) non-contact boxing program thanks to funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

A $320,000 contribution will allow SYL, which has worked with more than 1,800 female-identified survivors of violence in Toronto since its inception in 2007, to extend its support services to youth aged 13 to 18 affected by family violence in the both the Niagara region and Edmonton, Alta.

“I’m really excited for the next phase of Shape Your Life, which will provide us with the opportunity to leave a legacy in the communities we are collaborating with,” said Professor of Kinesiology Cathy van Ingen, who has been a driving force in ensuring the success and sustainability of the program since its inception.

The funding was part of more than $1.3 million for projects using positive parenting and sport to help prevent child maltreatment and support young survivors of family violenceannounced Wednesday by Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle on behalf of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.

“Gender-based and family violence can have an impact on every aspect of a survivor’s life, from physical and mental health, to housing and financial security,” said Minister Hajdu. “I am proud to announce the Government of Canada’s support for this project, which is using evidence-based and innovative approaches to support survivors of family violence.”

The new SYL project aims to reach 200 youth survivors of violence and to train 20 coaches and program leaders in collaboration with three community-based agencies that support under-serviced youth, including youth in foster care.

“I am very excited for Brock University’s next collaboration that will support youth in Niagara and Edmonton by providing an opportunity to achieve positive health outcomes through Shape Your Life,” van Ingen said. “As we are increasing capacity amongst coaches to better serve young people who have experienced trauma and violence, we hope to leave a sustainable legacy of trained individuals who can continue this much needed-work long after the completion of this project.”

As part of this project, a SYL trauma and violence informed Coach Training Program will be developed and adapted to meet the needs of the youth supported by the collaborating agencies. The training will engage boxing coaches who may be less experienced with trauma and violence informed approaches.

“It’s important to realize that while we teach non-contact boxing, it is very different and far more advanced than a boxercise class,” van Ingen said. “This coach training approach will build a pool of trauma-informed boxing instructors to deliver, in partnership with community-based youth organizations in Niagara and Mountain Plains Family Services and Pathways Family Services in Edmonton, the SYL youth programming.”

The Brock-based team overseeing and implementing this project with van Ingen includes Associate Professor of Kinesiology Kimberley Gammage, who is the co-investigator and will oversee research data collection to evaluate the effectiveness of the program; SYL Head Coach and five-time national boxing champion Melinda Watpool, who will oversee the training and development of youth coaches; and post-doctoral Research Fellow Amanda De Lisio (BEd ’08, BPhEd ’08), who will oversee the research on mental and physical health outcomes, as well as evaluate the coaches’ training and the experiences of the youth participants.

“Today’s announcement from the Public Health Agency of Canada will enable our professors to further support programming and research that is known to havesignificant positive mental and physical health outcomes for Shape Your Life participants,” said Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Dean Peter Tiidus. “I am very proud this intervention will be a catalyst for supporting marginalized youth in Niagara and Edmonton.”

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