Youth Unlimited thanks community for support

By Darren Lum

As Haliburton’s afternoon rush hour traffic rolled by, a masked man in a blue and yellow costume, resembling the Marvel character Wolverine, of X-Men comic book fame, waved his gloved hand with plastic claws from the corner of Highland and York Street, holding a sign, reading, ‘Honk to support for the youth of Haliburton.’

Ian McIntosh, the satellite director of Haliburton Highlands Youth Unlimited, later spoke to the Echo about wearing the costume to celebrate the “milestones” reached through the fundraiser ‘One to 100’.

The three-week fundraiser ran just prior to the holidays, via the Giving Box platform.

There were 100 squares, each containing a dollar amount, that people could choose as their donation for the general fund to support programming for Haliburton Highlands Youth Unlimited, who help support eight to 20-year-olds in the area.

Their initial fundraising goal of $5,050 was met within a week. In total, ‘One to 100’ (and later expanded to ‘One to 150’) raised $6,048.

McIntosh made public appearances with the costume and completed various other stunts, such as kissing two live pigs on the lips, and jumping in the frigid water of Head Lake.

The local Youth Unlimited location is a “satellite of Kawartha Youth for Christ, working together with local residents, businesses, churches, schools and government for the youth in our community.”

McIntosh has held his current position for the past two years, but has been involved with youth work for close to a dozen years.

In his short time working here he has gained insight into the challenges facing youth in the Highlands, ranging from alcohol and drug dependence to mental health concerns related to anxiety and depression.

“There’s quite a range of stuff that goes on,” he said. “I’m happy to be there in that time. Obviously not happy that it’s going on, but that I could be there for them.”

The money collected will help to alleviate budgetary concerns for Youth Unlimited and has the potential to help fund new programs.

McIntosh said the approach of Youth Unlimited works under the premise of enabling youth to realize their full potential.

“From bare bones, in the thick of it, right in the mud, and we try to see what their strengths are and work alongside them day-to-day… having meetings and helping them through certain issues that they’re going through. It can take weeks. It can take months,” he said.

He referenced one youth, who is dealing with a death in the family.

“To see the transformation from day one to now is absolutely incredible,” he said. “We do that by, like I said, meeting with them, praying with them, meeting with their family, helping them get professional care from doctors or professional counsellors, because by no means at all are we professional counsellors. We’ll never claim that.”

Although the foundation for this organization is Christian-based, it has provided children from a wide array of backgrounds emotional support and education over the years.

Among the programs funded are the pre-COVID-19 Lunch Time Drop-in at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, where students socialized and ate their lunches, with snacks provided by Youth Unlimited. There was also a tutoring class at HHSS, and ongoing online music lessons, teaching piano, guitar and drums, which are 30-minutes in length held over an eight-week period, including optional 15-minute “life lesson” sessions.

With COVID-19 looming over all aspects of life, the need for youth to receive support has only grown, McIntosh said.

“It’s a hard time for a lot of young people. Well, pretty much everybody,” he said. “We hang onto the hope that we’re going to see every young person living to their fullest potential. We see that there is going to be good coming out of this for sure. It’s not all bad. There sure is a lot of bad, but the good is going to outweigh the bad when it comes to the end of this.” he said.