Hear Me Roar - Glenn Manton and Whitelion
Sport & Body Image Reporter Anthony L speaks to Glenn Manton about Whitelion, the youth support service he founded.
As complicated as life is for young people in the 21st Century there will always be others who are worse off. Many young people have difficult pasts that serve as obstacles to getting the most out of themselves.
A decade after it was established, Whitelion has grown to become one of the leading youth charities in Australia, with a mission to provide a positive influence for young people lacking role models and support.
With the help of dedicated volunteers, Whitelion continues to assist and educate thousands within schools and other youth facilities across Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
The sight of Glenn Manton charged with comedic enthusiasm is as infectious as it is hard-hitting. Doing the rounds presenting at schools and the International Comedy Festival is a far cry from his playing days for Essendon and Carlton.
However, for all his sporting accolades it's the co-founding of Whitelion that is easily his most satisfying feat. Together with current CEO Mark Watt, Whitelion was born in 1999 after "a year of ad-hoc work" by Manton.
"My initial foray into the world of youth justice was the result of a one-off invitation to work with 'clients' behind the wall," Manton says.
"After just one visit with both male and female prisoners I had an inclination that more could be done to maximise their time behind bars and assist them to make positive life changes once released."
What's happening today?
Whitelion has a variety of programs in place to meet the needs of all the young people it assists on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.
"We don't subscribe to one shoe fitting all feet. Connections - real connections - are the desired outcome and such connections require options," says Manton.
The ROAR Program (Real Original Amazing Rolemodels) is one of these programs, targeting a range of schools in communities where children and teenagers are more susceptible to negative influences.
About eighteen schools including KODE (Koori Open Door Education) facilities welcome local and notable role models from a variety of backgrounds. These respected figures tackle issues from violent upbringings to health abuse to try and educate young people about making better decisions in life.
Sportsmen and women are the backbone of the ROAR program and other Whitelion program, with organisations such as the North Melbourne Football Club partnering up for the cause.
"Sporting people have a heightened responsibility. They are but one of a number of important role models for youth, including artists, musicians, trades people, emergency services representatives and more," Manton says.
Most recently Rare View joined the stable of initiatives. Run by Motorvate, it targets the attitudes of inexperienced drivers in their late teens, encouraging them to drive safely and avoid risky situations. Almost 160 at-risk young people were put through their paces their paces between January and July 2009.
Another a major feature of the Whitelion programs is its employment service. Coles, KFC and Metlink are some of the affiliated employers helping troubled young men and women find work on a regular basis.
Bilal is one young man who Whitelion helped to secure full time work after he decided to quit being influenced negatively by his "friends". Even after he had his license suspended, the support of Whitelion made it possible for him to continue working.
Despite the leaps and bounds Glenn is modestly expecting little growth in the future.
"Whitelion may not necessarily get bigger in the future, but more focused and strategic - the not-for-profit sector is challenging and as such we must look to ensure a sustainable direction which builds communities and the individuals within them," says Manton.
However there's little doubt Whitelion wouldn't be where it is today without the promotion through the media (The Footy Show) and its volunteers.
"Without the promotion of our message and basic community support we would simply come up short."
Join the pride
According to Glenn there are so many ways to become part of this not-for-profit organisation which receives significant support from major companies.
"The best way to involve yourself with us is to look carefully at our website and consider where you may fit," says Manton.
"Once you can see an area that you would like to support the next step is to make contact and we can consider the 'fit'."
And the biggest effect Whitelion can have on you, says Manton, is thought. "What each individual chooses to do with that thought is solely up to them."
For more information on what Whitelion does and how you can become involved, visit www.whitelion.org.au (new window) or call 9389 4420. You can also follow Whitelion on Facebook (new window) or twitter (new window).
If you would like to find out more or get in contact with Glenn Manton, visit www.glennmanton.com.au.
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