Millions of boys in North America grow up without a father. The Boys to Men Mentoring Network was founded in San Diego in the late 1990’s, and here, Boys to Men Canada has been operating since 2006, with school-based group mentoring programs running since 2009. Though 95 per cent of the male youth benefiting from the programs don’t have a father in their lives and are being raised by single mothers, the organization welcomes youth and their fathers to participate in the many retreats and workshops made available.

“Every boy who needs someone to stand up for them, I’m there for them,” says David Cordes, Executive Director of Boys to Men Canada. Cordes felt compelled to take the reins on the mission of the organization after surviving a difficult childhood situation himself, one that lasted well through his teen years but that ultimately made him one of the most qualified and perceptive leaders for the youth under the wing of the organization.

This March, the annual “Reclaiming Your Teenage Fire” retreat event will take place, designed for adult men to analyse and discuss behaviors and beliefs that began to shape in adolescence, and how they might be affecting their lives today.

The annual youth retreat, “Adventure Weekend”, is aimed at male youth 13-25 years old and will be taking place this May. Led by experienced facilitators and staff members (who are all volunteers), the young men learn about integrity, bonding, mission and service. It’s an opportunity to think about who they are, and what kind of men they want to become. The youth are divided into three groups based upon age, and the activities are altered for each group to be age-appropriate.

All adult volunteers, facilitators, staff and participants are put through vigorous background checks, and closer to home, the organization has had a partnership with Laval Police for close to a decade. “We’re very careful whenever minors are present,” says Cordes. “We have to keep our youth safe.”

Special Needs
Cordes is extremely proud to organize and integrate programs and retreats for students on the Autism Spectrum. “In many of our after-school programs, we have seen that close to half the boys that participate are somewhere on the spectrum,” says Cordes, whose own son is also on the spectrum. “In any given retreat, there might be 70 people, and I tend put the spectrum students in leadership roles, and those students really shine and take it to the next level,” says Cordes. “What’s amazing is that the non-spectrum students learn a lot and it opens up their eyes and they look at things and people in a totally different way.”

Expanding in Education
Cordes will be placing much of his efforts in expanding the school-based programs the organization provides, as they are very popular and have been successful. “They [school programs] are really the foundation of our organization, and we’re really trying to change the culture and stigma that can be associated with these groups, and instead, focus on leadership skills,” says Cordes. “We make it safe for youth to just be who they are and speak about what they’re going through, and then naturally, over time, they begin to make decisions that align with their highest self.”

School programs are several weeks long and operate on a cycle of three weeks at a time. What’s more, Girls to Women Canada will launching nationally in the near future. At the current time there are initiatives that have already begun to take shape in Toronto, and Cordes is working hard behind the scenes to get a chapter up and running here in Quebec. Some high school programs in the Laval area are in the pipeline.

“To be able to provide support and mentoring for youth who are going through a rough time, being misled or mislabeled, THAT is my fire, and nothing is going to stop me,” says Cordes. “I went through what I went through, so that I can be here today and support those boys who need it.”

To register for an event, to become a volunteer or to donate to the organization, visit their website at