Left foot…right foot…left foot…right foot….

Running seems so simple but, as anyone who has ever competed in a marathon, half-marathon, 10K or 5K will know, running is replete with unanticipated situations and surprises and it never seems to go as planned. On race day, when you walk up to your Starting Corral, you have no choice other than to deal with the realities in front of you.

In a way, running mirrors the unexpected challenges that life throws our way. Many young people face challenges each and every day as they deal with trauma, poverty, violence, resettlement and discrimination…none of which they had planned on confronting when they were at their own starting lines of life.

They are resilient; they are strong, confident and smart, and with some supports they can achieve their dreams. WoodGreen is there to help them get to the finish line so they can develop to their full potential.

This is what I’ll be thinking about when I run the 5K Constantine Yorkville Run in September to help raise money for The WoodGreen Foundation. I’ll be thinking about the 700 young people in Toronto who age out of the child welfare system each year on their 18th birthday, when they are suddenly deemed ‘independent’. I’ll be thinking about young people who arrive in Canada from war-ravaged countries and must struggle with a new language and a new culture on top of the regular challenges of adolescence. I’ll be thinking about black youth from disadvantaged neighbourhoods celebrating their heritage as they transition into responsible adulthood. And I’ll be thinking of how WoodGreen is there to help support them as they build bright futures.

It motivates my training and preparation, and it will keep me pushing forward as fast as I can through every single step that I take, en route to what I hope will be a personal best finishing time.

I’ve been a runner for the past five years and this isn’t my first race. I’ve done half-marathons, 15K, 10K and 5K races. In the spring of 2021, I’ll be running the New York City Half-Marathon. I don’t love racing. I do love running because it helps me to manage the stress from all of the things involved in a very busy life. Running gives me a quiet time (usually very early in the morning when I’m running through downtown) to relax, to gather myself and (I think other runners will know what I mean when I say this next piece) think about everything and nothing. Running is important for my own mental health and well-being.

I am so happy to be running for WoodGreen in the Constantine Yorkville Run – to contribute to the mental health and well-being of our youth. While I am now privileged to be Chair of the Board of Directors, WoodGreen has been a central part of my life since I joined the Board seven years ago. The more I’m involved in what we do, the more impressed I am with the central role that WoodGreen plays in changing peoples’ lives, with how much we can do, and with the increasing need for philanthropy to help us sustain and enhance our vital work.

On that note, I invite you to join me in running for Team WoodGreen – or to support me, or any member of the team, with a donation – to show you care about today’s young people. Using the Social Determinants of Health as a guiding lens, WoodGreen’s innovative new Youth Wellness Centre acts as a welcoming epicentre for young people in our community, offering a wide range of services from Rites of Passage for black youth and Civic Rites of Passage for newcomer youth – through social and recreational programs, community building, and mental health counselling – to financial empowerment and skills training. WoodGreen creates a safe space for youth, many of whom face multiple barriers, to access the supports they need so they, too, can achieve their personal best.

Left foot…right foot…. Please join me in helping WoodGreen make a difference for youth! Register or donate here today.=

Antonella Ceddia
Chair, Board of Directors, WoodGreen Community Services