Now in its fourth year, the I Love to Move program has provided free recreational activities to more than 200 local youth. Created and run by the Centre for Social Justice and Good Works, I Love to Move addresses an identified need in the community.
“A study conducted by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre in 2015 suggested that some of the children in Sault Ste. Marie were in the worst health in the province of Ontario,” Shreya Mathur, executive director of the CSJGW, told Sault This Week. “Obesity and inactivity were on a rise and there was a strong need in the community for affordable recreational activities for children.”
In summer 2016, the Centre ran a pilot project, called Go For Gold, with the help of some summer students. The pilot was well received, and in September 2017, with the help of funding through Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart, the program was revamped and renamed I Love to Move.
Children aged six to 13 can sign up for I Love to Move, to participate in a variety of activities, from sports such as soccer or badminton to group games like Mr. Wolf, led by adults as well as high school students.
“The goal of the I Love to Move program is to provide free recreational activities to all children in our community to help them get active, learn leadership skills and instill in them the importance of staying healthy and active for life,” said Mathur.
“The I Love to move program also provides an excellent platform for high school students to gain their volunteer hours. In the last four years, we have been able to hire three volunteers as paid staff members in contractual positions.”
The program began in 2017 downtown at The Tech, with help from the Neighbourhood Resource Centre, then expanded to include a program at Holy Family in the west end. It then expanded further to two more areas until they were taken over by the YMCA.
The program runs on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Bellevue Park and Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Manzo Park at Goetz and Young streets, beside the Manzo Pool. Children can be registered for the program by emailing [email protected] or calling 705-450-4483.
The Centre for Social Justice and Good Works has been a registered nonprofit in Sault Ste. Marie since 2015. Frank Sarlo, Father Hamish Currie, and Mary Anne Amadio established the centre. Its primary goals are to develop and deliver programming, including skills training, that address identified needs of individuals and families to improve outcomes such as health, wellness, education, employment, and income. Another of the centre’s programs developed to achieve these goals is a training program called ACTion SSM.
“It is a year-long training program aimed at teaching life skills, business skills, manufacturing, retail and wholesale to participants who face barriers to employment or who want to start their own business,” said Mathur. “The program is aimed at providing four months of in-class training and eight months of hands-on work experience to clients to assist them on their journey to become better employees.”
To facilitate that hands-on training, in 2019 the centre created Sweet Change, a social enterprise chocolate manufacturing facility. Through Sweet Change, participants learn manufacturing, retail, wholesale, and business skills in a real-time environment, and all proceeds return to the centre for programming. Through Sweet Change, the centre has trained more than 15 people, while also creating employment opportunities for about 10 participants, Mathur said.