Bootcamps for Change Volunteer Team Cause and Leadership Support

As someone who has thoroughly benefited from sports and fitness both mentally and physically, when I read the mission of Bootcamps for Change, I was both excited and passionate about their plan to house homeless youth through the structure of fitness. Knowing the benefits for fitness and wellness personally, the idea was phenomenal as not only is the organization able to promote a healthy lifestyle to the youth in the program but also makes the change lifelong as they are able to take the tools learned and obtained through the program with them through their lives.
Giving this tool to homeless and at-risk youth allows them to have an outlet where they can build a community with other like-minded individuals as well as somewhere where they can put their energy into. As someone who has played hockey competitively for many years, as well as other team sports, having a community of people positively impacted my mental health.
To me personally, a leader means someone that you naturally want to follow, not someone who is just in a position, and although I have not met Katie in person I know that she is someone who would hold this key attribute. From the kind emails asking how you are doing to the connection she brings amongst the team members, it is clear that she cares about everyone that is helping her in the organization! Moreover, she is always there to help you if you need clarification with a project you are working on and provide resources. This is why she has the leadership ability needed to make Bootcamps for Change into a national organization!
-Sara Ettehadieh
Before I started volunteering, I did not know much about the homeless population across Canada but through my experience, I am learning so much about homelessness and their impact on society. I got involved with Bootcamps for Change because the projects I have been working on aligns with my career goals to become a health promoter. I am passionate about helping others, physical health, mental health, and self-improvement. I love how the #SweatierfortheBetter program promotes all the things I am passionate about and to help homeless youth get back on their feet while setting them up for success by investing in their career growth and motivating them to be the best versions of themselves.
-Ariana Krista San Diego
I recently got involved with Bootcamps for Change because of its unique goal of improving the lives of homeless and at-risk youth through equitable access to fitness programming. Not only does this work support the physical health, mental health, and resilience of these youth, but it also gives them an opportunity to learn about fitness and to be part of a community where they can feel like they belong. This potential for education, connection, and better health for youth experiencing homelessness is so powerful, especially because research has shown that precarious housing and life on the streets contribute to worsened health and shorter life expectancy. Bootcamps for Change not only has the potential to positively influence the lives of at-risk youth by improving their health and resilience, but also in preparing them for employment and obtaining secure housing in the future. Bootcamps for Change's vision is close to my heart because fitness has impacted my own physical and mental health. Focusing on my health helped me become physically and emotionally stronger, which in turn boosted my confidence and strengthened my resilience. I can't wait to see how Bootcamps for Change will impact the lives of at-risk youth in a similar way, especially with its emphasis on trauma-sensitive classes.
- Natalie Pilla
Growing up, I could not imagine my life without movement – whether that be through sports or fitness. The power of physical activity goes beyond physical development. Just like the three pillars presented by Bootcamps for Change, the health benefits that follow are linked to improved self-esteem, mental-health and increased socialization amongst youth. Bootcamps for Change (BFC) takes the need for fitness programming and brings it a step further by developing the #SweatierForTheBetter initiative. By creating scholarships to certify homeless youth as personal trainers and group fitness instructors, BFC provides a platform for youth to find employment within the fitness community. Given, the end-goal of the organization is simple: give youth the opportunity to find their passion, teach them the skills and provide them with the proper tools to achieve success and watch their lives improve immensely. For this reason, Bootcamps for Change stood out as an organization that I am thrilled to support and be part of. As a volunteer on the Marketing Team, the leadership abilities have surpassed my expectations. As a leader, Jolene has shown to be flexible, can build on the strength of others, and communicate effectively. With the challenge of working remotely and living in different geographic areas, Jolene has proven the ability to adapt quickly to changes in scheduling and priorities. Similarly, she always acknowledges the value and expertise of every member on the team. With this, she is consistent with seeking knowledge from others and excels at keeping her team up-to-date at all times.
-Alex Barnes
I first came across Bootcamps for Change when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Canada and we were all forced to stay home. As I was without work and real structure in my day-to-day life with the university school year coming to an end, I began to seek out meaningful volunteer opportunities on Charity village. In a way, I really wanted to feel a sense of purpose again in this chaotic time. I came across a volunteer position at Bootcamps for Change, an initiative seeking to change the lives of the most vulnerable youth in Canada, through fitness. As a fitness enthusiast myself who’s physical and mental health has been drastically improved with a daily exercise routine, I knew that such an initiative was needed for those who don’t necessarily have the privilege to be educated on the benefits of exercise, or have the resources to afford good exercise programs. To me, fitness is far more than something one does to improve our physical bodies, it is something we must do several times a week to relieve stress and anxiety, take a break from our work and do for the sake of our health. As someone who has struggled with an anxiety disorder for many years, I’ve noticed a direct correlation with how bad my anxiety has been over a period of a few months and how consistent I’d been with exercising and just generally moving my body. This is so important and it is not only a privilege to be able to take the time to care for our bodies, but it is also a need. I immediately reached out to Katie Heggtveit to find out how I could be a part of such an amazing organization, and she replied within the hour, outlining the various projects that Bootcamps for Change had on the go in order for me to pick one to focus on. That same day I was assigned a project and began to work with the organization. Katie has been nothing but friendly, helpful, and grateful for the volunteer hours I’ve put in with Bootcamps for Change, and has thanked me in every email she’s sent. Whenever I have a question, she provides an in-depth explanation and instructions, without ever making me feel stressed out about deadlines or overloading me with work. Also, she’s highlighted several times that if I ever feel overwhelmed, I could always focus on one thing at a time, or take a break. It’s honestly admirable how much Katie puts in to be an excellent leader and role model at Bootcamps for Change - she is incredibly busy and still, never leaves me hanging with unanswered questions and makes me feel continuously valued. Finally, when I reached out to Katie about possibly getting her help to deal with my University so that I could get school credit for my volunteer work, Katie was on the ball and let me know how much she believed I deserved real credit for the hours I’d put in. All in all, I’ve had nothing but an incredibly positive experience working with Bootcamps for Change under the leadership of Katie Heggtveit. I hope to continue working with the organization for a while, and hopefully take part in their expansion plans to many more Canadian cities.
- Lina Sakkal

“Bootcamps for Change is an organization that I’ve become involved with because of the lasting impact it has had on youth living in Toronto. BCFC has done tremendous work to balance the playing field for youth and offer them the ability to lead healthier lives and access an abundance of meaningful opportunities. As a student who grew up playing competitive sports and regularly exercising, I understand the impact physical activity can have on a person’s mental and physical well-being. Consistent exercise greatly contributed to my collaboration skills, ability to manage workloads, organization, and proved to be a great stress reliever. I believe that the fitness that BCFC offers to disadvantaged youth is extremely important to their wellbeing and will help them excel in the future. From the dedication and knowledge of the founder to the success stories of youth involved with BCFC, this organization has taken great strides to create change in the Toronto community.”

– Raya Kassam

“The ability to live a healthy, wholesome lifestyle is something that I believe everyone on this planet deserves. Bootcamps for Change is working hard to make this a reality. By supporting this awesome initiative, I’ve found myself feeling a lot happier and more motivated! By knowing that I’m helping young adults like myself, I feel a strong sense of fulfillment and peace. I believe that the mission of Bootcamps for Change will not only do wonders for the youth in their programs, but for all Canadians. We could all benefit from having more healthy, happy, productive, young workers in society. And who knows? As a firm lover of yoga, perhaps I’ll find myself taking a class one day from an awesome instructor who has graduated from this program!”

– Giselle Mendes

“I decided to support Bootcamps for Change because it had a specific goal in mind… to utilize fitness to establish an inclusive support system where they can feel empowered. What stood out was that the organization is run by young professionals who intended to create a positive impact on individuals who aren’t as fortunate. Also, right from the first connection with Katie, the founder of BCFC, she was compassionate and kind-hearted. I saw the passion and drive she has for this cause right when we first chatted! 

I truly believe fitness resources should be equally accessible to everyone regardless of your social and financial status. Sadly, that is not the case for many youths who are unable to gain access to fitness such as gym facilities or fitness classes. Thus, it can severely harm their physical well being. There is no doubt that fitness has many positive effects on your mental and physical health. Fitness for many (including me) acts as a healthy stress releaser where it clears my head and become calmer during stressful times. Also, it’s where you can bond with your friends and meet new people. 

Although, it’s been hard to be motivated to workout during the quarantine. Before, fitness was a safe place where I could put on my headphones and kind of forget the world for a second. It helped my mental health since I was releasing energy in a safe, inclusive space. Furthermore, it was a thrill to complete the fitness goals I have set for myself. I developed a love for sports and later at a very young age because of my family (we’re big sportspeople, especially with soccer). It taught me so many valuable skills like leadership, commitment, and resilience. Sports will forever remain an important part of my life because it brought my friends and family together. Thus the reason why I want these youth to experience all the feelings I did! Throughout my life, fitness shaped the person I am today, and every person should have the opportunity to experience it as well.” 

Farhiya Hassan

“Back in 2017 while searching for a way to give back to the community, I came across a posting that Bootcamps for Change was looking for volunteers. Immediately, I was intrigued and inspired by their mission to help improve the lives of homeless and at-risk youth through accessible fitness programming and education. Specifically what stood out to me about Bootcamps for Change as an organization, was the innovative approach to helping youth. Bootcamps for Change directly goes into shelters and has personal conversations with youth, to ensure that the organization continuously grows to best meet the needs of the community it serves. Bootcamps for Change builds a strong, secure, and well-supported environment for youth, sponsors, participants, and volunteers. At the organization, you can be assured that whichever way you are involved, you are treated with dignity, kindness, and respect. 

I think fitness programming should be accessible to homeless or at-risk youth because fitness programming is an excellent outlet that allows for personal growth – not only physically but mentally. Fitness programming allows youth to feel confident, accomplished and makes for the opportunity to create a positive network of friends and access to support services.

Personally, fitness is a part of my daily routine and living a balanced lifestyle. Being active in my daily life does not only positively impact my physical health but also impacts my mental health. In my youth, my personal fitness journey started with martial arts, this created a space to help me build confidence, resilience, and also cope with the stresses of everyday life. This experience and learned understanding of the value of fitness has transpired into my adult life and is a reason why I continuously support Bootcamps For Change. I have seen that Bootcamps For Change builds on all 3 pillars of physical health, mental health, and resilience at every event and program, addressing all pillars as equally important. 

When I first met Katie Heggtveit I was blown away by her drive, leadership, and kindness. In my experience in getting to know Katie over the last few years, I have come to learn that she is an exemplary leader in every aspect. Katie’s passion to help improve the lives of others is unwavering and displays this passion by working relentlessly to continuously grow the organization, programming, and events to the next level. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Katie always comes with a clear vision and quantifiable results! This past year, I was so proud to be a part of an organization that was able to empower youth with scholarships, this would not be possible without her leadership, dedicated team, and partnerships. I look forward to continuing to be a part of this organization and seeing where Katie will lead change in the lives of others. 

Dave Tang, who has directed multiple events, is one of the most organized and dedicated people I have met through my journey with Bootcamps for Change. Dave’s passion to help the organization grow is evident through his innovation and creativity. In my experience with Dave’s leadership ability, he is always willing to take initiative and is the first person to volunteer a lending hand. Dave’s kindness, passion for the organization, and an excellent sense of humor always make for an inclusive and positive space for participants, volunteers, and team members. Dave always goes above and beyond to ensure the growth and progress of Bootcamps for Change and always leads by example.” 

– Stefania Gargaro 

“I’ve had the privilege my entire life to access fitness programs and have benefitted with increased energy, enhanced self esteem, stress relief and being part of an encouraging community. Bootcamps for Change has been able to address the complexities of homelessness in order to provide opportunities for marginalized youth to benefit from fitness.  Fitness can be a catalyst to support youth in so many ways. Thank you to Bootcamps for Change for recognizing this and for taking action!”

– Chris Hill

“As someone with family and friends who have experienced homelessness, seeing the long term commitment to helping vulnerable people that Bootcamps for Change is committed to really stood out for me. As well, as a lover of fitness, seeing how much athletics have shaped who I am and the opportunities I’ve had made me want to get involved with an organization that also recognizes the value of exercise. The group at Bootcamps for Change also come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and are all passionate about achieving their goals, creating this community feel that I was really drawn towards. Fitness programming should be accessible to homeless and at-risk youth as exercising is key in developing healthy habits and proper health. Significantly improving physical and mental health, fitness also enables individuals to learn how to formulate short and long term goals, develop key skills that can transform their lives forever. It also provides youth with a sense of confidence and strength, both mental and physical, and translates into how one views themself and carries themself in an everyday setting. 

Fitness has absolutely transformed my life by helping me cope with my mental health problems, improving my physical health, teaching me many valuable skills, and giving me opportunities I would have not otherwise had. As someone who struggles with mental health problems surrounding anxiety, fitness was a healthy way to improve my mental wellbeing and gave me something to look forward to. Additionally, after suffering a back injury, fitness helped me regain my confidence in my physical abilities and have made me an overall much healthier person. I find myself also encouraging others to use fitness as a means of improving their health as I have seen the improvements it has had for me. Continuing forward, my experiences in fitness have boosted my confidence, making me able to believe in myself and increasing my ambition in every other aspect of my life.  

– Eleni Pantieras 

“In my time volunteering with Bootcamps for Change, I have been continuously growing to appreciate the efforts put forth by the organization in pursuit of its mission of making fitness and a healthy lifestyle accessible to all. Improving my awareness of the cause has helped me to truly realize the benefits of living an active lifestyle from a physical and mental health standpoint. I’ve learned that I am extremely fortunate to have the physical and financial capability to engage in healthy living, and that programs that make physical activity accessible are incredibly important as it can be transformative for the homeless youth in our communities. I look forward to being involved with Bootcamps for Change to continue to serve our existing communities and those we’re hoping to support in the future.”

– Philip Di Lello 

“As I continue to focus on my personal journey to physical health, I have come to be more and more thankful for the lack of barriers I have had in accessing resources for assistance. From a sheltered home and parents that provided for me, to a vast network of friends and colleagues with the knowledge and acumen to guide my fitness, I have been able to continuously access fitness programming and progress toward my health and lifestyle goals.

For homeless youth, this is only one of the many barriers they face in their lives and it is of utmost gratitude and support that I work with an organization like Bootcamps for Change, that recognizes lifelong health is founded through the accessibility of resources and assistance. The foundation Bootcamps for Change has built for homeless youth to become aware of healthy lifestyle choices and furthermore, provide access to these resources is extraordinary. The organization inspires hope that change is possible, in a community where hope faces barriers of availability. 

Staying true to BFC’s mission to remove barriers for vulnerable people of society, they have inspired this culture within the organizational structure. The organization’s brilliant founder, Katie Heggtveit, cultivated a group of engaged volunteers that were looking for the opportunity to build important career skills during a global pandemic, in which roles for young worker development were not readily available. I had a need for accessible career progression in a similar way today’s homeless youth have a dire need for physical active programming. Bootcamps for Change is removing barriers for homeless youth by removing barriers for their own active volunteers, a truly spectacular organization destined to change the world!”

– Arvind Natt

“I know from first-hand experience through my own wellness journey the positive impact that fitness can have on mental health, resiliency, confidence, purpose, health, and wellbeing. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. As a fitness instructor, I am also keenly aware of the barriers that many face with regard to access to fitness including cost, clothing, or support. Often the people who may benefit the most, such as youth experiencing homelessness, are overlooked or shut out. This is why the work at Bootcamps For Change is so important, and why I have chosen to give my time to such an amazing organization.  Not only is Bootcamps for Change giving these youth an outlet for mind & body self-care they might not otherwise have access to, but they are going beyond that to provide support, leadership, and purpose to their participants by helping them to become fitness-trainer certified with an end goal of being employed and housed. It is a fantastic example of how fitness can be so much more than just about the physical – it is a vehicle that changes lives!”

– Morgan Tryon 

“The idea of involving young people in health and wellness regardless of their socioeconomic status or housing was one that struck me as incredibly simple yet, I had never heard of a program like Bootcamps for Change’s to be found. When I reached out to get involved, the team was immediately so receptive, involving me in event planning, sponsorship communications, and organizational updates and details. Health and wellness should not exist in this bubble of exclusivity; it should be available to everyone. Suzanne Vu was my team lead and is truly an incredible person. She continuously reaches out to me to check-in and updates me on what’s happening with Bootcamps for Change. I‘ve followed in her footsteps and begun working in fundraising, and we’ve been able to connect on this outside of our Bootcamps work. She’s an incredible relationship builder, determined change-maker, and absolutely powerful sweetheart.  

Optimal health and wellness should be attainable for all, regardless of socioeconomic status. The trend of boutique fitness classes and overpriced healthy food has created barriers to healthy living. Bootcamps for Change removes barriers to fitness programming so that it is accessible and inclusive for youth who could not afford it otherwise. The impact of physical health on mental health is so profound. Access to this impact should be more readily available to those struggling through tough times in their lives or with limited access to other supports. Bootcamps does an excellent job of talking about the resilience fitness builds, and how important that mental resilience is for young people living in shelters. Fitness has improved me as a human being. While I initially dove into it as a young woman overly concerned with image and weight, I have learned the power of my strength, resilience, and motivation through fitness. I’ve made friends, strengthened relationships, and eased my anxiety because of my commitment to my physical wellness. How can anyone who has felt these positive impacts of fitness think that it should be reserved for only those who can afford the most exclusive classes?”

–  Madeleine Gray  

“While I was looking for organizations to get involved in during COVID isolation, BCFC stood out to me as an organization that could make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives and I related to the mission because I’d played a lot of sports growing up. Fitness programming is very important for mental and physical health, but fitness programming and equipment is typically very expensive and inaccessible. Accessible fitness programming is very important to make health and fitness possible for everyone. Both individual and team sports were a very important part of my life growing up and a source of a lot of fun, friendship, and emotional ups and downs. Sports helped me stay physically healthy and also contributed to my resiliency and long-term mental health

– Chris Irwin 

“As a Kinesiology student, fitness has been a big part of my life, from team sports to personal fitness. I have seen how physical activity affects my own health from changing my mood, to helping me become a better athlete. Even on the hardest of mental days, physical activity has continuously proved to change how I’m feeling and make my day a little bit better.

I think what Bootcamps for Change is doing is absolutely incredible because everyone deserves to have access to fitness programming, especially youth who may not have had the opportunity to learn or educate themselves about the importance of physical activity. At-risk youth should be educated and participate in physical activity as much as anyone else, if not more because it will benefit their overall health and wellbeing, especially creating new healthy, lifelong habits.

Working with Katie has been one of my greatest pleasures of 2020. She not only has started up this incredible organization, but she is also one of the greatest supportive professionals I have ever met. As a practicum student in these uncertain times, Katie has taken initiative to bring us under her wing and show us the ropes and guide us through our practicum journey. Not only does she have a positive attitude, but she is also confident, committed, creative, accountable, focused and driven. On top of this, Katie believes in teamwork and is constantly supporting us in any and every way possible. She is a strategic planner with a clear vision and is incredibly grateful for everyone who is working with her. Lastly, Katie is very ambitious for the organization and is putting in the work to do what’s necessary to be in service of this greater cause.”

– Marta Natalia Misiewicz

“Katie is a dedicated and compassionate leader committed to addressing an equitable gap in the fitness industry. Access to quality fitness and wellness training should not be a privilege. The work that Bootcamps for Change does to provide access and opportunities for at risk youth to engage in fitness, fitness education and career opportunities is an example of a holistic approach to a complex issue. I am honoured to support Katie and Bootcamps for Change.”

– Anne Pringle

“I am passionate about supporting the work that Bootcamps for Change does because it is an outlet through which I can utilize my experience as a homelessness support/intervention worker for advocacy purposes, to help shape the amazing work of BCFC. Their work of activating and supporting the agency of young people experiencing homelessness to be physically active, create a better future for themselves, and give back to their communities is inspirational, and aligns closely with my passion for community engagement and wellness.

As an Operational Researcher with BCFC, I have sincerely appreciated the down-to-earth and flexible leadership that Katie has provided, as well as her enthusiasm to keep learning in order to make BCFC programming stronger and better for all the stakeholders, including street-involved youth, fitness professionals, and her staff/volunteer team behind the scenes. The programming of Bootcamps for Change is both practical and innovative, as it bridges the relationships between physical health, mental health, and housing on vulnerable young people in critical ways. I believe that BCFC has the potential to create an incredible impact for the most vulnerable people in our communities, if implemented more widely. I hope to continue supporting the work of BCFC for the foreseeable future, where I can.”

–  Alison Read

“The true meaning of fitness was foreign to my adolescence, spoiled by the social pressures of body image. Only in my university years through group fitness classes did I learn of its benefits to overall health and wellbeing. These classes became a safe haven away from the toxicity of the stress, anxiety, and depression I unknowingly found myself in during difficult personal times. Friends and family suffering from chronic depression and body dysphoria have equally found healing through fitness.

When I landed upon Bootcamps for Change’s (BCFC) call to action I immediately responded. Katie Heggtveit, founder of BCFC, recognizes fitness as an essential factor in holistic well being and took initiative when she realized that she could connect her two worlds: fitness and the at-risk youth population she had been volunteering with for the greater part of her young life. Bridging two unconnected worlds is a great challenge. Fortunately, Katie leads through listening, seeking out those more experienced for guidance, and using the resources at her disposal to push BCFC forward amidst obstacles.

My work with BCFC has so far been very fulfilling. Katie gives you valuable tasks and plenty of freedom and flexibility to pursue your own ideas, while keeping available to help you as you need, and thank you for your hard work. I fully support Katie and BCFC and would encourage others to do so as well.”

 Leah Friedman