Phoenix Centre to help young men out of the ashes, into the dust

There's a lot riding on the next few weeks for a program aimed at involving young men in mountain biking instead of drug abuse.

The Phoenix Centre hopes to launch its Out of the Ashes and into the Dust program next month but a lack of funding has put the number of participants in limbo.

Organizers hoped to raise $20,000 to pay for the costs of the camp, but have stalled out at $2,140.

With things set to kick off Sept. 10, time is quickly running out.

"We are going out on a limb and have purchased 10 bikes and all the gear, so a minimum of 10 kids will be attending this camp," said Sian Lewis, executive director of the Phoenix Centre.

"In order to fill the camp up with the 25 kids we do need the support from the community."

Each participant will be given a new mountain bike, as well as all the riding gear they need to continue biking after the program ends. On top of the bikes there's the need to pay for food, transportation and insurance; it's not a cheap endeavor.

Lewis said the centre is essentially borrowing from itself at the moment in order to pay for the first 10 participants. Once those spots have been filled, applicants will have to be wait-listed in hopes further donations will allow the centre to open more seats.

"We've paid for these bikes already and the gear so basically we'll just bite that, we'll be in the red," Lewis said. "We didn't want to not run the camp at all so we did commit to 10."

The program has been developed over the last couple of months and Lewis said the lack of a fundraising foundation at the centre prior to her first day two and a half years ago is partly to blame for the slow influx of cash.

"Because they've never done fundraising there are no volunteers, there's no volunteer base," she said. "So all of these things take a lot of time and effort and it's also a re-education for everybody on the board because they have to learn what fundraising's all about and how do we do this."

Despite the issues with funding, the rest of the program has fallen into place nicely.

The camp will involve five mentors who will work with the youth providing them with the skills and connections needed in order to succeed.

Professional riders Brett Tipple, Dylan Sherrard and Mike Jones and professional instructors Bodie Shandro and Brett Woods will be working with the young men over the two days of the program and will remain in touch with them after to provide ongoing mentorship.

"Prevention is one of the most impactful ways to stop someone - prior to using - but we tend to sink money in the other end," Lewis said. "This is looking at the other end of the continuum and saying 'Hey, why don't we start talking about healthy, fun activities? Let's not wait until we're talking about the other thing.' "

People interested in donating can contact Sian Lewis by phone at 250-374-4634 or email Donations can also be made at Spoke 'N Motion.

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