All posts by David Rowney

Team Unbreakable Student Profile highlighting BEN HOPKINS

We recently had the opportunity to ask student Ben Hopkins, one of our most enthusiastic supporters of Team Unbreakable, to talk about his experience with the Program.  Here in his own words, is what he had to say:

When did you become involved with the Team Unbreakable program and what made you join?

In September of 2017, I joined the fitness club at my middle school. We trained every Wednesday morning and started running outside in March. Around April/May, our fitness coach told us about the Team Unbreakable Program and 5K run in June. I was worried at first, but what made we want to join was the fact that I was having such a good time running, especially with my friends. I also wanted to improve my mental well-being as well as my physical well-being — which is what the Team Unbreakable program helped me to do. I first became involved with the program when I did that run in June 2018, and it was amazing. 

What motivates you to run?

What motivates me to run is knowing that each time I do so, I become a better version of myself. On some days, I may be slower than I was the day before, but I know that each time I run: my heart becomes stronger, my mental well-being becomes stronger, and I become stronger as a person.

Please share a highlight or memorable moment from your experience with Team Unbreakable (This can include your training progress or the goal runs)

One of the many highlights I have had when running and training for the Team Unbreakable runs is when I completed my 5K in November 2019. I had been running before that, but not as frequently as I normally would, and I had no idea how fast I was compared to June. But I told myself, ‘You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else, not even your past self.’ So even though I was worried about my time and worried about whether I could even complete the 5K without stopping, I did it anyway and got my fastest time yet. I believed in myself and as a result, I proved to myself that I am better than I thought I was.

Would you recommend this program to other students like yourself? Why?

I would most definitely recommend this program to other students who are my age, older, and younger because it is a great, fun way to get into running as the program isn’t competitive and everyone can run at their own pace and set personal goals. It also encourages good mental health through physical health, which is just as important as physical well-being; mental health is a very important aspect of everyday life and I am glad that the Team Unbreakable Program has helped me to realize that. This program is great for students especially because mental health is very important as we can sometimes face stress at school and feel anxious, and running with the program, or even training for it, can help battle that stress and allow you to become a stronger person at the same time.

Family Resource Centre on Vancouver Island Starts a Team Unbreakable Program

Team Unbreakable has gone national!

Our first out-of-province program started this fall at the Comox Military Family Resource Centre on Vancouver Island. Youth Services coordinator Courtnea Stolting is taking the lead.

“We were looking for ways to meet the growing psychological and physical needs of our youth,” Courtnea said. “As a youth program, we noticed that our participants were needing an outlet for their energies and extra support navigating their changing brains and emotions.”

“Team Unbreakable offered the full package.”

The Family Resource Centre on Vancouver Island is one of eleven similar Centres in Canada. It is part of the Military Family Services Program, a Canadian Armed Forces-wide community-based support program for military families. Courtnea, having grown up a “military youth,” attended this Centre and is now giving back.

“I have a deep and empathetic understanding of a lot of the struggles this demographic faces.”

The sessions at the Centre will consist of two programs. The first being a daily after school initiative for pre-teens. The second, which will be launched in early October, will happen weekly on Fridays.

Courtnea’s optimistic the program will be well received.  “I do expect the program will create a growing enthusiasm as they are given the skills and reinforcement to see that they can be successful in whatever they do, even running.”

Courtnea hopes Team Unbreakable will help lighten the emotional and mental burden COVID-19 has had on youth she works with at the Centre.

“While running Team Unbreakable, we hope for beautiful weather so we can primarily keep our youth outdoors, which is the safest place for gatherings. It’s also the best place to get grounded and in tune with the outdoors.  But we live in a rain forest and some wet runs will just keep us exhilarated,” she says.

“I am beyond excited to get Team Unbreakable off the ground and get our kids set up for success.”

10-Year-Old Zoé LeJeune’s 100K Run for Team Unbreakable

For this west-end Toronto girl, running isn’t usually her “thing,” but with swim practices cancelled, she decided to run 100K this summer and raise money for Team Unbreakable.

10-year-old Zoé set a goal to run 100K, with regular runs of up to four times a week to accomplish her goal.

“Once I told my parents about my goal, I used my mom’s business Wish and Give so that I could ask people to donate to the charity I chose. I had never really heard of Team Unbreakable – so when I went on to the website and looked at what the charity was doing, it looked awesome.  I said, I am definitely going to fundraise for them – they are doing cool and amazing work.”

Zoé would run with her friend, or her parents and her longest run was 10K accomplished one day. By the time she had finished, Zoé had raised over $90.00. Next year she hopes to do this run challenge again and will aim for 200K.

Zoé’s mother Julie LeJeune said, as parents, she and her husband were very proud of their daughter and thrilled she wanted to take on the challenge.  “Zoé was able to experience this sense of accomplishment and learn to establish a goal while raising money for a good cause.”

Thanks Zoé for being an inspiration to us all!

Team Unbreakable Welcomes Laura Somerville As Executive Director

A former Toronto principal with vast experience in leadership positions with the Ministry of Education and the Ontario Principals’ Council has been appointed as Executive Director for Team Unbreakable.

Laura Somerville brings a wealth of public education experience to her role. Through the Ontario Principals’ Council, she is project lead for an initiative examining cyber-bullying and cyber-violence. Laura has also worked in several countries on behalf of the International School Leadership program, a subsidiary of OPC,  to promote strong educational leaders at the school and system level.

Laura was approached to join Team Unbreakable’s Board of Directors in 2018 to provide her perspective on school operations.  “I was impressed by the diverse group of strong board members and liked that the Team Unbreakable program has a research-based model,” she says.”

Adjusting the program so that Team Unbreakable learning modules were more aligned to the Ontario Ministry of Education Health and Physical Education Curriculum provided added value to their own program, she says. “Strong mental health and physical education has an important role to play in supporting student success and well-being,” Laura says. “We can be the partner that provides value added programing to complement the good work that schools are already doing.”

Moving forward, Team Unbreakable can continue to provide more in-depth programs and align actions to goals to promote better mental health of students, she says.  “We have to have programs that resonate with students and that are more family centric as compared to being only school centric.  It’s important to listen to the students through surveys, advisory groups and anecdotal feedback,” she says.

The charity has recently conducted a virtual 5K run which was successful in raising $16,000. “We were very pleased with recent fundraising, but the reality is we have no government funding and support by individuals and corporate sponsors is vital to our future.”

Some new examples of enhancements that Team Unbreakable may consider are modules on the impact of social media on teens, providing a portal or app for parents with resources, and tip sheets. In the age of digital, a training log app may also be in the works for the future. Measurement of the programs goals and providing statistically-based research will continue to be a focus, Laura says.

Now, more than ever with COVID-19, students are isolated physically, emotionally, and socially and it is especially tough for young teens and adolescents. With the need for programs that address the mental health issues of our youth, Team Unbreakable has an easily accessible program that is already on-line and can be adaptable to whatever teaching environments are approved by the Ministry, Laura says.  Sport teams, community groups and universities may be areas for growth in the future as well.

Laura was born in St. Catharines and is married to George Rowell who is also a former Principal. They have a daughter, son in law and two grandchildren. In her spare time, you’ll find her busy renovating or involved in music activities of all kinds.

Virtual Bold and Cold 5K Open For Registration

Team Unbreakable will be hosting it’s 5th Annual Bold in Cold on Saturday, November 28, 2020

Register here

Sign up and run the event VIRTUALLY! You’ll still be mailed a TU pin, finishers medal, and toque! Virtual registrants can run anytime between 9am-9pm on Saturday, November 28th. Hashtag #boldandcoldvirtual5k and share your experience with us!
$30 For Adults and $20 For Youth! 

“VIRTUAL” REGISTRANTS RECEIVE – Finishers Medal, Toque, Pin (in the mail) and “Virtual Swag Bag” via email! 

It’s only through your help that we’re able to generate and raise awareness about the importance of youth mental health. Everyone’s  contributions have made each event more successful than the last. Team Unbreakable greatly appreciates all of your support.

Virtual 5K Event Raises over $16,000 for Youth Mental Health

On their residential streets, in their favourite park or walking path, Team Unbreakable supporters accepted the Virtual 5K challenge and rocked it for the charity!  The June 21, 2020 Father’s Day event 288 runners participated in the Virtual 5k, raising over $16,000 for the Team Unbreakable Run for Youth Mental Health Program.

“The event was everything we had hoped for and more,” said Program Director Nils Blondon.  It’s clear that despite COVID-19, students, parents and supporters still wanted to be involved and responded to the challenge of running a 5K – some of them doing it for the first time.”

Several things helped the event be a success.

“This event lent itself to getting people excited and engaged through social media, so we were aggressively promoting the run on all our channels.  And people responded by sending us lots of great photos capturing their training or their race day highlights, “said Nils.

People were looking for opportunities to stay connected with the program during COVID-19 – some by participating in the run, and many other by raising money through their personal pledge pages.

The TU volunteers were a tremendous support throughout, whether it was marketing, writing, video production or social media, or delivering medals. The Team Unbreakable team came together to make it happen. We also want to thank our two sponsors, the Running Academy and So Young for their support.

Next up for Team Unbreakable are the Online Train the Trainer Seminars in Late August for TU Team Leads. And the 5th Annual Bold and Cold 5k in Toronto, on Saturday, November 28th in Coronation Park. Stay tuned for more details!