Terry Kratzmann is running the length of Vancouver Island to help children at risk.

Mentor running to support at-risk youth

A Campbell River man is training for a run that will take him from Cape Scott Provincial Park to Victoria

A Campbell River man is training for a run that will take him from Cape Scott Provincial Park to Victoria this April, to help children at risk.

Terry Kratzmann will run the 600 km from tip to tip on Vancouver Island to raise money for the KidStart mentoring program, which helps at-risk youth aged 6-18 in Campbell River, the Comox Valley and Victoria.

“It’s me paying ahead or paying back,” says Kratzmann, who was a KidStart mentor for more than three years. “If we can save one young person from falling through the cracks, 600 kilometres doesn’t seem like much.”

Kratzmann, who will be 65 when he does the run this April is fairly new to distance running, having completed his first half-marathon when he was 60.

He is currently running about 100 km a week, working up to 210 km by the end of March. He will run 30 km a day to complete the run in April.

To start 2012, the Campbell River KidStart program has 53 children waiting to be matched with volunteers. The majority are between 10 and 12-years-old, and 42 are boys, said Tara Jordan, the Campbell River KidStart coordinator. Referrals to the program are highly sought after by the school district and the ministry, Jordan said, “because they know it works.”

While the KidsStart program has some similarities to Big Brothers and Big Sisters (which does not currently have a program in Campbell River), it helps a slightly different group of youth.

“The design of Big Brothers/Big Sisters is that the child is missing an adult in their life,” Jordan said, whereas children can be referred to KidStart even if both parents are still involved, or for example, a female child who lives with their mother can still be mentored through KidStart.

It focuses on preventative mentoring – helping children vulnerable to crime, addiction, abuse or family crisis, before the problems begin.

“Through role modeling and encouraging kids to participate in activities that build their confidence, mentors help children and youth become more resilient and successful in the face of numerous challenges in their lives,” said Tanya Storr of the John Howard Society of the North Island, which administers the program in Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

The one-on-one time between adult and child that KidStart provides can make all the difference in the life of the participants.

“The benefit to the child, when they have some of that one-on-one time – the undivided attention to focus on their skills, their successes, and someone to say good job,” Jordan said. “It’s that pat on the back they don’t always get.”

And being a mentor is a surprisingly easy and rewarding process.

“The message of how fun this is is often lost on people,” Jordan said. “They’re just a child waiting there with a big smile on their face. People often focus on the vulnerable part, but they’re just a child who wants to walk your dog, or go for a hike, or cook dinner with you once a week.”

Adult mentors are required to commit to a minimum of three hours a week for the duration of the match, and training is provided. In the past year, 50 children and youth were matched with mentors who volunteered 7,488 hours in the Campbell River and the Comox Valley.

Adults interested in applying to mentor are encouraged to visit the Campbell River volunteer centre in the basement of City Hall to start the process.

Those individuals or groups wanting to support the program financially, can sponsor a child’s participation through the KidStart Champion campaign, which provides monthly donations to cover the program costs.

For more information on volunteering or donating, contact  Jordan at the John Howard Society of the North Island, in Campbell River at 250-286-0611.

More information about how to support Kratzmann’s run will be available through the John Howard Society website at http://jhsni.bc.ca/programs/kidstart.html