Reflections on 5 Years of BOKS
September 24 marks an important day for BOKS, and an important one for me personally.
It was 5 years ago, on September 24, 2014, that I was working at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). My role at the time was to help integrate a JK (Junior Kindergarten) student who was on the autism spectrum into his first year of school. JK is hard for all children, but for children on the spectrum, it can be especially challenging. My student, Antonio, was non-verbal, and was prone to sprinting away (what we call “a runner”). It didn’t take long before I realized that on the days Antonio did not have physical education (P.E.) or time in the gym to play, were the days where he had the most difficulty learning, sitting, or playing with his peers. This led me on a bit of a wild goose chase to find something I could do with him in the gym that would help prepare him for a successful day. As with most kindergarten children, his fine motor skills were not yet fully developed, and as with many children on the spectrum, his inability to read social cues made it difficult for him to participate in any sports-related activities.
It was 5 years ago on this day that I was on my lunch hour, surfing Twitter, and came across a press release from the TCDSB, Reebok, the CFL, and The Public Health Agency of Canada announcing the launch of BOKS – a before-school physical activity program to get kids active and help prepare them for a day of learning. It was free, fitness based, and non-competitive…it was perfect!
The second I found it, I knew this is what Antonio needed. So I immediately reached out to learn more, and with the help of the P.E. teacher, St.Stephen’s became one of the first 10 schools in Canada to enroll in BOKS. Antonio, and 35 other children, began participating in BOKS at lunch hour 3 times a week, and believe me, our afternoons went much more smoothly after that.
It was also this event that helped me to realize that while I loved teaching, there was something else out there that perhaps was a better fit for me. So, I applied for a job as a coordinator with BOKS, and emailed everyone I could find until finally someone agreed to interview me.
Moving from teaching to social purpose in the corporate world has been a massive learning experience, and one that I wake up grateful for every day. Having seen first-hand the impact the program has on children across the country, including my own two children, is incredibly rewarding. Seeing that a company as large as Reebok is committed to giving back to the community in a tangible way shows me that corporations can lead the way to create real change. And seeing our government’s laser focus on investing in evidence-based solutions to help create a healthier generation makes me even more proud to be Canadian.
To celebrate FIVE years of BOKS in Canada, we would like to share with you five new Bursts to try with your students. We encourage you to do one Burst each day with your students and help us celebrate how far we have come. BOKS Bursts are designed to help kids stay active throughout the school day. You can do these Bursts wherever you are, at anytime. Just 5 – 10 minutes out of your day to get your heart rate elevated and get moving.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, supporters, sponsors, and participants for an incredible 5 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 will bring.
Director, BOKS Canada