(Pictured: A YMCA Bridge Project past participant sharing his story at the event)
Over 400 business leaders and change-makers united for an inspirational morning at Myer Mural Hall on Friday 27 July.
The 12th annual YMCA Bridge Project Breakfast welcomed a capacity crowd including special guests Paul Roos, AFL premiership coach and new YMCA Bridge Project patron, and Ben Carroll, Minister for Industry and Employment.
The event aimed to both raise funds and provide an opportunity to connect businesses with the YMCA Bridge Project, a program that aims to create employment opportunities for young ex-offenders at risk of being trapped in a recurring cycle of crime and imprisonment.
One young man bravely shared his story of how the YMCA Bridge Project gave him a second chance, which moved many in the audience to tears.
“In May last year I lost my mum who was my biggest supporter,” he said. “I owed it to my mum to be the best I could be.”
“I have now been employed for 18 months and was recently promoted… Life and work are good for me at the moment and I recently got engaged to the love of my life and can’t wait to start a family.”
As well as hearing from an inspiring past participant, Matthew Denyer, the Social Procurement Advisor for the Rail Systems Alliance package of the Metro Tunnel Project, rallied fellow business influencers to challenge their thinking to lead the way in our community.
“As part of business leaders, we have the opportunity – and perhaps even the responsibility – to be a part of building the future community we all want to live in. And that we all deserve to live in,” said Mr Denyer.
“We will do this by creating job opportunities and by using new ways of thinking about the social legacy we want to leave both during and long after the project has wrapped up.”
In total, the event raised over $100,000 – including a generous $50,000 from our sponsor Far East Consortium - which will go directly towards the YMCA Bridge Project to provide funds for essential items like equipment and uniforms.
Among the fundraising items were handcrafted wooden toys, made by young people at Ravenhall Correctional Centre as part of their training and development for the ReBuild program.
From this year’s event, the YMCA Bridge Project has surpassed the event’s target to connect young re-offenders with 30 more sustainable employment opportunities this year.
"If we invest our time. If we invest our care. We're going to inspire belief. We're going to inspire change. Most of all we're going to inspire potential," said Mick Cronin, YMCA Bridge Project Manager.
Since 2006, the YMCA Bridge Project has connected 560 young people to meaningful employment opportunities and 3,200 young people have completed skills for work and vocational pathways through the YMCA Bridge project.