Celebrating 18 years of service, Lakefield Youth Unlimited (LYU) is launching its annual fundraising campaign as it emerges from the pandemic with big plans for the future.
The non-profit Christian organization — one of five local “satellite” branches operating under the auspices of Kawartha Youth for Christ — hopes to collect $15,000 through an online fundraiser beginning Thursday and running to Oct. 21.
LYU works with local businesses, churches and schools to serve the needs of young people and their families in Lakefield and the surrounding area. Pre-pandemic, LYU was serving 150 plus youth a week, offering in-school support and operating a host of programs — from free income tax clinics to youth ping-pong events. LYU also works to address housing needs in the area, providing affordable rental units to tenants at its LYU House in Lakefield.
According to LYU director Chris Jones, COVID-19 forced the non-profit to press pause on the bulk of its programming. But some initiatives, including Courageous Kids — a program aimed at equipping young people with tools to navigate anxiety and other mental health issues — moved online.
“It’s been difficult with COVID but we’re still finding ways to (provide programming),” said Jones.
Unprecedented times have pushed LYU to come up with creative ways to stay connected.
In the summer, LYU partnered with the Peterborough Axe Club to host an axe-throwing tournament in Lakefield over the course of 10-weeks. Participants aged 8 to 16 met weekly to compete — allowing isolated youth to stay active and engaged while socializing with their peers.
“COVID has been a real rebuild for us. We’re still connecting with youth and their families but it’s really a time for preparing and getting ready for what’s on the other side of COVID,” Jones said.
This month, LYU will be moving into its new home — the LYU Barn.
Located on Bridge Street, the 4,400-square-foot building — formerly home to Tribal Voices — will act as a gathering space for young people.
LYU raised thousands to renovate the new space.
LYU’s plans for the barn will be outlined during this year’s two-week-long fundraising campaign. Themed “Common Thread” — highlighting the shared needs and experiences of youth coming out of a challenging pandemic — the fundraiser will feature videos, photos and inspirational stories posted daily to the organization's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Donations can be made at lyufundraiser.com.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner