This winter, in connection with the Tokii Teens at Risk Project, Wearable Therapy and Tokii’s CEO Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, accompanied by her therapy dog Nucky, visited teens at an Ontario Youth Detention Centre to spread a little bit of hope and happiness and donated over a dozen pillow cases as well as a number of other items from our website.
Even before creating the Tokii Teens at Risk Project, Karla has been working with teens at risk as a mentor to help them get on their feet after they are released. I had the chance to sit down with her and ask her about this experience and her recent visit.
Teens at Risk is a cause that is very close to your heart and something that we work to bring awareness to every day through all of our Tokii platforms. Why is this an important issue for you?
I starting working with Teens at Risk through the St. John’s Ambulance Dog Therapy program in 2014 at At Risk schools and Detention Centres. Now, I love the teens and the more ‘badass’ they are the more I love them! It’s amazing to see these teens, who in their brief lives have often experienced violence, sadness and loss of hope; whether self-caused or by others, respond to the Danes!
They love Nucky and even the toughest of teens warm up and revert to a childhood innocence for the 30 minutes they get to spend with the dog. They cuddle, kiss, hug and laugh at the way Nucky groans in response to their actions and of course they are awed by his size. I like seeing them smile and for that moment in time, their stress levels visibly decline! This SJA experience inspired me to start a teen at risk program to raise awareness and funds
Why do you do outreach for teens at Detention Centres?
The kids come from all over Ontario, so many are away from home and do not get many family visits (if they get any at all). When these teens get out, they are given nothing but what they came in with – which is usually just the clothes on their backs. I believe that they want to improve their lives and don’t want to be in and out of facilities like this for all their lives and in order to change their situation, they need to have hope and access to some resources. So I do what I can through Tokii Teens at Risk and donations like this to help them while they are doing their time and after they get released.
What do you want people to know about these teens?
They are very sweet and very responsive to kindness and they have so much life experience that they are wise beyond their years. They have good intention but sometimes do not make the best choices. And, worst of all, sometimes they believe that the best choice for them is getting into the system, as it can provide them with mental health treatment or schooling that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. One of the goals of Tokii Teens at Risk is just to show the stresses and obstacles that these teens face on a daily basis so that we can get them the support that they need to reach their own potential.
What can others do to help teens at risk?
Understand their side and what challenges they are up against and continue to be up against – many teens in detention centres have had a shitty life with not many positive and successful role models and the fact they are even trying to change and improve themselves makes them some of the bravest people I know. I really enjoy their company – each of them is so unique and so special and so courageous .. They humble me.. And makes me realize how lucky my life is and thankful I am to having to 2 great parents and because I had a solid loving upbringing I believe it is my duty to be a voice for teens who did not have so great. I think anyone who has had a good life needs to pay it forward.
Wearable Therapy is all about designs that help people to embrace who they are and give hope through showing people that they are not alone. So, what designs did the teens like the best?
They tend to like the darker designs like My Inner Ghouls and My Oblivion, however we try and get them to appreciate the more happy color designs like our new One Word Motif Collection, which is just coming out in the store. These were some of the first people to see designs like Choose Happiness. The reason that we created these designs was so that people could have a simple and comforting reminder of good things and positive words. So, these were the perfect people to share these designs with.
Tokii Teens at Risk seeks to raise awareness and inform parents and loved ones about the trials that face millions of youth throughout the world today.
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