Spider’s Web Weaves Hope: Toronto Chalkfarm Neighbourhood Project Joins IGNITE
Poets and pugilists, bookworms and boxers may seem like strange bedfellows but at Spider’s Web Children and Youth Empowerment Centre in northwest Toronto, the two pursuits fit together like a pair of knotted boxing gloves.
Every day after school, up to 45 neighbourhood kids crowd into the centre, run by Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services on the ground floor at 160 Chalkfarm Drive, to relax in the library with a treasured book, do their homework in the computer lab, or work on their footwork and jabs in the ring with a half-dozen volunteers from the community, including Olympian Kingsley Haddaway and retired boxer and broadcaster Spider Jones.
Boxing and reading make both the mind and body nimble, explains Morris Beckford, Executive Director of Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services, which runs the popular Boxing Ontario-certified centre in one of the city’s most diverse and underserved neighbourhoods.
“People don’t often realize that boxers, like many athletes today, are often very well educated,” he says. “They understand that no one can take academics away from someone. Boxing and reading give young people options and life skills that will enable them to give back to the community someday.”
The Asset-Based Children and Youth Development (ABC-YD) Project, which operates at the centre in partnership with Believe to Achieve Organization, the Oaks Revitalization Association and Literature for Life, is one of the more than 35 projects that have joined the TO2015 IGNITE program to date.
IGNITE officially recognizes projects and events inspired by the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games coming to the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. The program is a community partnership enabling individuals, organizations and communities to create their own Games program and/or increase awareness of existing initiatives by being associated with the Games.
The ABC-YD project, Beckford says, is a chance to shine a positive light on the communities of Black Creek (Chalkfarm, Jane/ Finch, Falstaff etc.) and give young people a connection with one of the world’s largest sporting events which is taking place in “their backyard.” He says he dreams one or two of their boxers may even qualify to compete at the TORONTO 2015 Games and that others will have the chance to perform in the Opening or Closing Ceremonies.
“Over the last few years, we’ve worked closely with residents, the property management company and other partners to completely revitalize our community and we need some positive attention to help get us ahead. We need people here in the community and throughout the city to see the change that is taking place here,” Beckford says “IGNITE can provide us with that exposure and help inspire greater community spirit. But the TORONTO 2015 Games also need what we offer: the ability to connect one of the most diverse communities in Toronto with an array of people from Latin America and the Caribbean with the Games.”
Along with Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services, several other community groups are involved with IGNITE, including: the Ontario Blind Sports Association, the Center for Spanish Speaking People, Civic Action’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), UrbanArts Community Arts Council, Red Warriors Basketball, Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association and ParaSport Ontario. Their TORONTO 2015 Games-related projects are as diverse as the communities and groups they represent and serve.
IGNITE, which piloted last spring and officially kicks off in January, is currently accepting applications for more organizations to join this quarter until March 1, 2013. Other application windows are available in 2013 on June 1, September 1 and December 1.
For applications and guidelines, click here. If you have any questions about the IGNITE program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.