Shak’s World looking for a home court advantage

It’s not about demonizing the misunderstanding’; local non-profit officials looking forward to working with the city to find a permanent home

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Having one community hub would make a major difference in the lives of minority youth in Barrie, according to officials from a local non-profit.

Shak Edwards, founder and president, and McKeyra Peter, [Former] director of operations, for Shak’s World, made a pitch to city council this week for financial help to obtain space in Barrie for Shak’s World Community Centre, where a multitude of programming and outreach would be based to help local youth navigate the mental-health landscape that comes with being a teenager.

Edwards and Peter say programming specifically for minority youth is much needed and said discussions sparked by Black Lives Matter protests in Barrie back in June have sparked new community partnerships.

“I believe, that with this community growing into becoming more diverse, as well as Barrie having the largest turnout (county-wide) for Black Lives Matter protests in June, these two things show the need for this space,” said Edwards. “There is a need that is not being met for marginalized groups.

Shak’s World is an organization that focuses on community and the well-being and mental health of youth through basketball.

“It started off as a regular basketball program that brought together the best of Simcoe County to showcase their talent in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area),” said Edwards.

At that time, it was called Elite Academy Basketball.

“During that process, we discovered a lot of our athletes their friends were struggling with mental health, which is what led to us starting Shak’s World,” she said.

The non-profit participates in an event called Cure Core, which brings together about 90 athletes where teams can win prizes but are also connected with youth mental health experts for a day of education.

“Basically, Shak found a way to use basketball to bridge the gap between youth and mental health and create conversation,” said Peter.

Through the group’s mentoring programs, Edwards says roughly 10 athletes participate and three coaches, which is an optimal ratio for creating meaningful connections.

Overall, Peter says there is a core group of about 40 athletes Shak’s World deals with regularly. Edwards said she has expressions of interest from more than 200 families who want to put their children into the programming Shak’s World offers.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re trying to get this space, so we can create consistency. It can be difficult when moving from one location to another,” said Peter. “Considering the uncertainty with back-to-school and COVID-19, having a space where we can control and practise social distancing but still have physical interaction with the youth is extremely important.”

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