Kids in Fort McMurray have their hangout back.
The Justin Slade Youth Foundation reopened its doors to the Dugout hangout on Tuesday.
The foundation targets youth ages 12-to-17 and provides them with organized programming, casual drop-in services as well as opportunities for social interaction.
Executive Director Mandy MacDonald tells Mix News kids who come into JSYF can build connections with mentors.
“That is our number one goal – is that anyone who walks through that door, we want to make sure that we develop that connection with them and that they feel welcome in here and we provide them an environment that’s safe and drug-free and we don’t want to see them hanging out in the streets.”
JSYF found its roots in November of 2004 when 21-year old Justin Slade was tragically killed in a car accident.
His parents decided to start the foundation to allow kids in the community a haven to hang out, engage with other kids and keep them off the streets.
“We want to make sure that we provide them with the tools that they need to grow to become independent and to become stable,” MacDonald said.
“We want to make sure that they’re successful and make sure that when a lot of us grow out of the positions we are in that we are able to hand them off to successful young adults.”
Technology is the big focus with JSYF.
The foundation has added gaming and virtual reality consoles to draw kids in and give them an interactive environment to grow.
The Dugout provides a safe and drug-free environment where kids can now play video games, billiards and involve themselves in arts and crafts and other special activities.
MacDonald adds that it gives kids a chance to interact with youth outside of their own schools and set group of friends.
“Kids have certain friends they always hang around with,” she said.”
“The drop-in center really promotes the social interaction amongst them to get to know new people, take part in some programs, take part in the services we offer and it really just encourages them to get to know each other.”
At the end of the day, JSYF just wants to empower those who are involved and teach kids about self-respect in an environment that is safe, friendly and helps them engage with the community around them.