There are many people and issues that require immediate attention during these times of uncertainty. Charities have adjusted the way they operate on a daily basis and many have had to make significant shifts to fulfill their particular missions. Unfortunately, many charities may not weather this storm.
Our intention with the Charity x COVID-19 series is to share updates from a spectrum of charitable organizations to garner attention and inspire support for those in need.
Charity name: Take a Hike Foundation
Core purpose & mandate:
Take a Hike Foundation envisions a province where all youth believe in their potential. We are a full-time mental health and emotional well-being program that uses the outdoors and adventure to engage vulnerable youth in school, community and mental health supports. Over the past 20 years, Take a Hike Foundation’s evidence-based and proven program has supported hundreds of vulnerable youth to develop the skills and resilience they need to: graduate high school, build healthy relationships, and navigate the challenges of life.
How is your organization impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
A) The COVID-19 crisis is compounding many of the challenges the vulnerable youth in our program already face – anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, addictions, and trauma. Without adequate support or specialized treatments, they risk regressing to destructive coping behaviours like further isolation or withdrawal, using substances, or self-harm. A number of their families have lost income and are experiencing food insecurity (many for the first time), heightened anxiety, and hopelessness. To ensure the highest continuity of care throughout social distancing and the indefinite closures of schools, we have moved all programming to virtual or telephone delivery. This includes:
- individual, group and family counseling for each youth in the program: one-to-one sessions at least once per week; daily group sessions to maintain structure, connection, and a supportive community; and family therapy to help parents and guardians
- academics have moved online, with youth logging progress daily
- outdoor and adventure, and community involvement activities have been suspended but we are looking at innovative ways to maintain youth physical well-being in a safe manner
B) Our school district partners (current and future program locations) have identified an overwhelming need for mental health supports for vulnerable youth in their communities who are not current Take a Hike participants. Our registered clinical counselors are experts in youth mental health and development, and they are in a unique position to serve the growing number of young people experiencing mental health challenges or crisis during this pandemic. If we can raise the funds, we can mobilize our clinical counselors and onboard up to 10 additional clinical team members to meet increased youth mental health needs for the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
C) Take a Hike is forecasting six months of lost revenues for this fiscal year and significantly fewer donations for next year. As a result, we have paused our growth strategy to open new program locations. The consequences will be felt most by the communities we’ve been working with to open new locations. When schools re-open, the youth who would benefit most from our program, and whose vulnerabilities will likely be exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, will not have access to our proven supports as planned.
How have your fundraising plans changed?
For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, our fundraising priorities have re-focused to:
- Extend clinical counseling to current Take a Hike youth and their families through July and August – 130 youth across 6 programs. (Take a Hike is usually delivered September to June.)
- Expand clinical counseling to more vulnerable youth and their families – up to an additional 400 youth
If there is one story or message you would like to share with our community, what would it be?
It is critically important that those young people who already face risk factors or who are already vulnerable are not disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The most vulnerable youth and families need extra support now more than ever. Youth who, before the COVID-19 pandemic, had fallen through the cracks of the mainstream school system, are living within the foster care system, or whose mental health issues are at risk of intensifying, need help during this public health crisis to ensure they’re safe and healthy, and not impacted by further trauma.
Before starting at Take a Hike, Kim had felt alone. Their relationship with their family was strained and they were bullied at their previous school. Kim started skipping classes, became anxious and depressed, and started using substances to cope. Kim joined Take a Hike last September and started attending classes regularly. They bonded with the staff members – for the first time in years, Kim felt close to an adult. But while on spring break, when news of the pandemic became more prevalent, and social distancing measures more stringent, their anxiety and stressors rose. The day schools announced they would close for the foreseeable future, Kim felt lost and just left. They left their home with nothing but a cell phone.
Fortunately, Kim’s Take a Hike clinical counselor did not take a spring break. Our clinical counselors remained working through the scheduled time off and began weekly check-ins, and in many cases daily, with students and their families. So when Kim didn’t come home, their guardian had someone to reach out to an adult that Kim trusted. Kim’s counselor was able to find them by connecting with their friends. It took two days, but Kim returned home and has spent every day since speaking with their counselor to maintain their mental wellness and get connected to the other services available to them.
How can one support your organization most effectively?
Our immediate need is $80,000 to our Youth’s Great Needs Fund. This will expand mental health support to vulnerable youth and their families around the province – more than doubling our current reach (up to 530 young people). Your gift will help:
- Extend clinical counseling to current Take a Hike youth and their families through July and August
- Re-deploy two current Take a Hike staff from management to clinical counseling – increasing our current clinical team to 8 registered clinical counselors.
- Hire a minimum of two additional full-time registered clinical counsellors (and up to 10 depending on need and our ability to raise funds) to meet the needs of additional vulnerable youth for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Upgrade online tools to deliver individual, group and family therapy that ensures the privacy, health, and safety of all participants while practicing social distancing
Can donations be transferred electronically? If so, how?
Take a Hike Foundation
Registered Charity #891394611 RR0001
For further information regarding the transfer of funds please contact Cindy Fors, Director of Finance
[email protected] or 604-638-3385 ext. 105
For further information regarding greatest needs please contact Deb Abma-Sluggett, Director of Philanthropy at [email protected] or 604-638-3385 ext. 101