Funding will help racialized and justice-involved youth access mental health care and technical skill building through a 16-week music therapy program.

Toronto, Ontario (February 10th, 2023) – TELUS Friendly Future Foundation has donated $200,000 to Fernie Youth Services for the creation of a revolutionary music therapy program, Beat Builders. The pilot program will change the way young people access and view mental health and music production with culturally aware therapeutic sessions for at-risk youth aged 14-24.

“I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Telus for their support of our Beat Builders music and mental health program. In today’s world, our youth are facing unprecedented challenges, and programs like this are more essential than ever. Beat Builders gives young people a safe space to express themselves and build resilience through music, while also addressing important mental health issues. Thank you, Telus, for helping us make a real difference in the lives of our youth.” – Jeff Johnson, CEO, Fernie Youth Services

This funding for Beat Builders will address two fundamental gaps in underserved communities: timely, relevant mental health care and skill building in the digital world for at-risk youth. In Canada, an estimated 1.2 million children and youth are affected by mental illness, yet less than 20% receive appropriate treatment. At the same time, Black students in Toronto represent up to 13% of the student body, but only 3% of those are labelled “gifted,” and Black students earned just 7 percent of bachelor’s degrees in STEM in 2018.

“We’ve heard from our charity partners about the challenges youth in their community are facing,” says Shanan Spencer-Brown, Executive Director of TELUS Friendly Future Foundation. “We are proud to provide Fernie Youth Services with a grant of $200,000 to equip youth experiencing obstacles to reaching their full potential with new skills, tools and meaningful mentorship.”

Extensive research supports music therapy’s positive impacts on various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Fernie currently offers music activities where at-risk youth learn to write, record, and produce their own music in our residential settings. Clients consistently show personal improvement and vulnerability, confirming the interest and the opportunity for integrating a formal therapeutic element with a music education that recognizes the role of technology.

Leveraging cultural relevance, technology education, and the pillars of music therapy and narrative therapy, Beat Builders will create breakthrough change in youth’s mental health and career confidence and our community’s offerings for marginalized youth.

About Fernie Youth Services

Guided by compassion and hope, we serve youth in and at risk of being in conflict with the law on a journey toward reintegration and purposeful living.

An average of 3,000 youth are charged in Toronto each year[1]. Of those 3,000 young people, more than half will not receive the support they need to transform their lives, and they will re-offend[2], ending up back in the system with more barriers to their success.

Too often, young people fall into the cycle of offending. One mistake and their childhood is ripped away.

Fernie Youth Services gives opportunities to young people that have been given up on, often based on their position in society. We offer safe housing, open custody, employment readiness, and compassionate community programming to at-risk youth across the Greater Toronto Area, transforming their lives and creating safer communities for a lifetime.

[1] Incident-based crime statistics, by detailed violations, Canada, provinces, territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Canadian Forces Military Police (statcan.gc.ca)

[2] https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jf-pf/2020/aug01.html

For media inquiries please contact

Madison Perdue

Coordinator, Resource Development, Fernie Youth Services


(416) 991-7730

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