Can Fitness Help Kids Break Out Of Poverty? Katie Heggtveit Thinks So!
The founder of Bootcamps For Change wants to change lives through fitness
I met Katie Heggtveit at a party. She just came up and started chatting about how she met our hosts (the ladies behind the Tribe Vibe podcast) and how she has this little project on the side: Bootcamps For Change.
Humble and grateful, she casually talked about how she organizes fitness classes for youth at different shelters across Toronto. And soon I discover she does this, not once a month, but every, single week. It has grown into a sizeable group of health and wellness professionals who teach, speak and provide resources to the people that Heggtveit is trying to reach. She does this all without grants, but through fundraising parties she hosts.
Oh, and she is a fulltime nutrition student at Ryerson Unversity.
Why would she take on such a big project before even starting a career? Her #BHmoment: realizing how mental health, physical health and resilience were all tied together for her – and she wanted to help those who might not see the relationship. When she was a teen dealing with an eating disorder, it was fitness, healthy eating and a new perspective that saved her. And she truly feels that young people without homes are not without hope. Here is how she started a fitness based charity effort.
Why Bootcamps For Change can make the difference
“I strongly believe fitness has the ability to break the cycle of poverty through our three pillars: mental health, physical health and resilience, [through] teamwork and skill building. Access to exercise is largely impacted by the social determinants of health, which include the ability to afford sports programming, fitness classes, gym memberships and nutritious food, and we are out to change that.”
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How she turned an idea into reality
“I organized the first yoga fundraising event in June  completely by myself, and to be frank, I had no idea what I was doing at that time,” says Heggtveit. “A few Sportsnet anchors caught wind of what I was doing, [because] we work with the Jays Care Foundation, and they promoted the event.”
She then began to commit to the idea of Bootcamps For Change with “a goal to have weekly in-shelter fitness programming and educational workshops.”
With a bit of help with social media, marketing and events planning from her growing team – 30-strong today – she began fundraising with Yoga and Mimosas event. She has also partnered with bloggers and influencers like Beverly Cheng and Kelsey Rose, as well as brands like RYU (collecting donated fitness gear for the youth taking the classes) and more.
“This is very important as not having access to proper shoes and clothing can be a serious barrier to fitness and sports programming,” she says. “I am teaching the Boot Camps at Horizons for Youth Shelter every Friday at 1:30 p.m., after putting together a proposal of the benefits of exercise has on at-risk youth, and pitching my experience as a volunteer with the Trek for Teens Foundation. I am a true believer of our research and programs as fitness changed my life as a young child.”
What she would do differently
“I definitely would have started earlier. I had been sitting on the idea for two years but had doubts that it would generate the type of reaction it did.” Her bootcamps “sell out,” and the classes are expanding for a more 360-degree approach to health, fitness, wellness and mental health.
It’s a selfless act with returns
“I have met so many amazing people through Bootcamps for Change. I am such an optimist, even more than before, and I advocate that change can happen in society with innovation and change of mindsets. […] I am even more willing to try new things and do anything to achieve my goals since starting Bootcamps for Change,” she says. “I have learned about myself and shifted my priorities in the past six months, and Bootcamps for Change definitely played the biggest role.”
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We can all make a difference
Heggtveit’s mantra: “Your path is not solidified, be open to all opportunities,” she says. “I want to educate others to think differently and with a more open mind to circumstances rather than assumptions [based on] stereotypes. To think differently about poverty, homelessness, philanthropy, and social programs. I meet so many people of all ages stressed, believing they failed since they aren’t checking the boxes they thought they needed to. There is not one way to achieve your goals, and that box may become irrelevant when another opportunity knocks on your door.”