The Team Unbreakable program at Lutherwood in Waterloo, Ontario has been established for three years. We are currently running our sixth session. The current leaders of the program are Verity Suntz-Recreation Therapist, Chris Simpson-Clinician, and Steve Thomas- Running coach and community volunteer.
Verity Suntz leads the group, establishes session run times, registers participants for races, helps youth acquire proper running shoes and clothes, and completes update for the participant’s plan of care meetings each month. Chris Simpson is the clinician who oversees the pre and post run mood tracking sheets and interprets the data. Steve Thomas is a running coach with Runner’s Choice in Waterloo and coaches the youth on proper running and breathing techniques.
Each run/walk sessions usually has 10-15 participants. The benefits we have seen from the youth who go through the program are increased self self-esteem and self worth, increased physical endurance, a sense of accomplishment, and increased happiness.
We had a youth participate in our fall session and complete the 5km fun-run in the community at the beginning of December. This youth had very low self esteem and felt like they couldn’t do anything right. This person was a great runner and really bonded with Steve our running coach. Over the course of the 12 week sessions he was happier, running better and longer. When the race came around and he crossed the finish line, he exclaimed that he had never participated in something like this before and he was SO proud of himself that he completed the 5km. He wore his participation medal for the next week and told everyone about his experience.
What we like best about the program is that it is group exercise and everyone encourages each other. We like the model that is used with volunteers pairing up with the participants and developing a bond. We love that that the program encourages the participants to be physically active and that it is a gentle introduction to trying something new. The most rewarding part of the program for us is seeing and hearing from the participants how much they have improved and how good they feel after participating.
Our group is unique due to the clients that we have participating. We provide treatment for clients who are ages 12-18 and suffer from mental health. Sometimes half the battle is encouraging them to be active and come out and try it. Once they have come out and experienced a few sessions they are usually hooked. We also offer chocolate milk, fruit, and granola bars after the sessions to ‘re-fuel’ and as a hook to get them to keep coming back. This time after the session is usually spent socializing and talking about the improvements that all the clients have made from the previous session, week, month.
– Courtesy of Verity Suntz