Drugs, gangs, and violence represent the dark side of society and have taken many young lives on a destructive path. Back in the early 80’s one of those lives was Joe Calendino. Drug use started at age 14, involvement in gangs a year later, and by the time he left high school, Joe had a record of over 300 fights, according to his famed drama teacher.
Joe’s adult life became marked with time as a full patch Hell’s Angel and a full blown drug addict, an addiction that almost led to his death in 2006. Fortunately, from that day forward, events would transpire to transform Joe’s life for the better.
Through his lived experiences, Joe has the unique ability to connect with youth to educate, inspire, and mentor them to avoid the same path he took. It is the reason why Yo Bro Yo Girl Youth Initiative exists, and why its programs are so essential in today’s urban society, riddled by the perils of drugs, gangs and violence.
Yo Bro Yo Girl Youth Initiative not only gave Joe a path out of the darkness, it gave him the purpose and ability to help others. But it didn’t come easy or without essential support. Below are a few of the individuals who each provided a catalyst for the success of Yo Bro Yo Girl today:
Kevin Torvick: a member of the Vancouver Police Department Gang Squad, and former high school friend, who befriended Joe as he hit rock bottom in 2006, Kevin helped create the network of support for Joe’s recovery and eventual redemption.
Gary Little: Associate Superintendent of the Vancouver School District, and Joe’s former high school counsellor, Gary provided Joe with the platform to share his story to students in the Vancouver School District starting in 2009. Gary was the first educator to officially endorse Yo Bro Yo Girl’s “Taking it to the Streets” curriculum which paved the path for Joe to bring his message to thousands of students across the Lower Mainland.
Odd Squad Productions: Established by a group of VPD Police Officers, including Yo Bro Yo Girl Board member Brandon Steele, the Odd Squad provided Joe with his first paid gig to speak with players of the Western Hockey League, leading Joe to more speaking engagements and the eventual founding of Yo Bro Yo Girl Youth Initiative.
Brenda Frisse: A chance meeting with a student at one of Joe’s high school presentations, gave Joe the impetus to meet Brenda Frisse. With two Masters degrees and years of experience as a counsellor for children and youth, Brenda would become a founder of Yo Bro Yo Girl and lead the development of program curriculum. Within a few years, Brenda and Joe would marry.
Nick Bedford: Through his involvement with SVP Vancouver, Nick is a long-time community volunteer helping small non-profits create a path for growth and sustainability. Having worked with Odd Squad Productions, Nick was introduced to Joe and Brenda in 2012. Since then, Nick has helped chart the path for Yo Bro Yo Girl to become a registered charity, attracted key funders, developed a strong Board in his role as Board Chair, and continues to provide on-going guidance for the organization.
SVP Vancouver: A privately funded foundation that invests both “time and money” in local non-profits, SVP has provided essential funding to Yo Bro Yo Girl, skilled volunteers, and introduced new supporters to the cause.
Like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to create an effective non-profit. Yo Bro Yo Girl is extremely grateful for the incredible support it has received since its humble beginnings in 2009. In additional to those named above, we extend a special thanks to all our Donors and Community Partners for their past and continuing support.