‘Life-changing’ 360°Experience marks tenth anniversary

An organization committed to empowering youth facing homelessness celebrated the tenth anniversary of its signature event.

The 360°Experience, an event created by 360°kids to mimic a night in the life of a homeless youth, has raised more than $1.5 million and provided “life-changing experiences” for nearly 600 participants and volunteers since its inception, the organization reports.

The anniversary celebration and annual event were both held March 2. The 360°Experience is purposefully scheduled in March during the coldest nights of the winter season and encourages participants to “Step into the shoes of a homeless youth. Spend one night on the street. So no kid has to.”

This year’s 360°Experience featured four challenges. As part of the original in-person experience, more than 35 participants walked the streets. The virtual experience provided opportunities for younger participants and schools to learn and experience homelessness in the safety of their backyard or neighbourhood.

The corporate challenge, centred at the Community Safety Village in Stouffville, provided an opportunity for organizations and companies to build stronger team relationships by cultivating community and empathy within their culture. It also gives teams a chance to, for a short time, immerse themselves in a likely scenario of an at-risk youth to get a better sense of what struggles they might face.  A team from the City of Markham participating lived one such circumstance. Their scenario: they are an 18-year-old man kicked out of home by his parents after telling them he was gay. After walking around aimlessly, he found an abandoned home and went inside.

The City of Markham was among this year’s corporate participants and raised $20,000.

As part of the school challenge, a student can take part in the in-person experience while their school rallies around them through the virtual experience. Four schools took part: Richmond Hill High School, Richvale Academy and St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic High School, all located in Richmond Hill, and St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic High School in Aurora.

360°kids was created in 1989 to provide homeless youth and those facing homelessness with the tools and skills to overcome their crisis.

360°kids CEO Clovis Grant acknowledged York Regional Police Supt. Graham Beverly of District #4 – one of 12 participants who helped shape the event and the only one to have taken part in each 360°Experience.

The anniversary event also celebrated Director of Resource Development Lesley Sims, co-creator and logistics manager of the 360°Experience. She is credited with helping ensure the success of fundraising activities and participant satisfaction. The event also recognized virtual and corporate participants. A Five-Year Special Acknowledgement went out to Karen Rae, Kerry Schmidt and Peter Parente. The ‘First Year Originals’ were also acknowledged: Bill Snowball, David West and Jeff Faria.

Photo: Corporate participants met at the York Regional Police Community Safety Village before heading out for their 360°Experience.


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