A new teen fitness program in Kyabram, Vic, is inspiring community spirit and building fit and healthy bodies.
A health and wellbeing centre has been established by Kyabram Blue Light at the town's P-12 College thanks to $5000 from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program in partnership with Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR).
The centre has proven to be a holiday hit with local teenagers and will be used regularly during the school year.
It is part of the KyFit police and teen gym-based mentoring program, and according to organiser Senior Constable Mitchell Bull, the benefits are wide-ranging.
Teenagers have played a central role in establishing the gym in an old storeroom at the school.
"The kids have done the majority of it," Senior Constable Bull said.
"They put together a wish list of equipment, posters and information and then volunteered on weekends to load trailers and remove rubbish and then helped in designing the layout and setting up and testing the equipment.
"It's not just given to them on a silver platter - it's a community effort and we all chip in. For six or seven weekends in a row, we had up to 10 kids at the gym helping out. We removed six trailer loads of rubbish from the storeroom."
The gym includes two bench presses, two rowing machines, two magnetic resistance bikes, two treadmills, two decline sit-up benches, sets of dumbbells from 3kg to 10kg and 13 spin bikes for classes.
The Gardiner Foundation grant also helped with installing fans, electrical power points and tiles for the floor.
"We made every cent count and called in favours left, right and centre and had a lot of volunteer assistance with everything," Senior Constable Bull said.
"It's nothing fancy but it's equipment tailored to young people."
The gym is the latest development in the KyFit program that started in 2019 and is run by Kyabram Blue Light using police members, volunteers and community members.
"It was identified there was a need for a sporting or physical program that didn't require the time, cost and travel commitments of the likes of football or netball," Senior Constable Bull said.
"The gym will help those who may not have the opportunity to be involved in the local gyms or sports clubs."
Personal trainers, defence force members, police and other community members help with the program, ensuring young people can access a variety of training programs ranging from boxing to swimming sessions and pitting their abilities against the police fitness test challenge.
A weekly in-school program attracts at least 13 participants and after-school programs are reaching about 30 teenagers.
The school also uses the facilities for physical education classes.
Senior Constable Bull said the grant had helped to empower local young people.
"We used the gym over the school holidays, allowing kids to drop in when there wasn't much else to do - we can barely keep up with the demand," he said.
"A lot of kids want to join the program now because they've seen the benefits the others are getting. It's helping with their physical and mental health and the kids are seeing the benefits of physical activity and working out with other people."
Police can also use the fitness programs to help break down barriers between officers and young people.
It's about building a relationship between police officers and young people and showing we're approachable if there is a problem in the community that needs to be discussed.- Senior Constable Mitchell Bull
"The kids get the benefits of getting to know local police and other volunteers and mentors," Senior Constable Bull said.
"It's about building a relationship between police officers and young people and showing we're approachable if there is a problem in the community that needs to be discussed."
It's also beneficial for police.
"It means we're not always seeing the negative side of things in the community and we get to work towards positivity," Senior Constable Bull said.
The program is free for local teenagers who also receive a free sports top when they get involved.
In recognition of his work with young people, Senior Constable Bull was named Citizen of the Year for Campaspe Shire at the 2022 Australia Day Awards.
Now in its 20th year, the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grants Program is delivered by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR). Grants of up to $5000 help not-for-profit organisations in small Victorian dairy communities deliver projects that will benefit local people and strengthen their ability to deal with local issues and enhance existing community infrastructure.
More information can be found at www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/communitygrants/.
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