BY THE NUMBERS
Approximately 110,000 girls in Ontario and Québec have benefitted from FitSpirit programs
12 – 17: Typical age of the girls in the program
200 secondary schools in Québec and Ontario are involved in FitClub
12,000 girls will run their first 5- or 10-kilometre race in 2016 through the FitSpirit program
Studies show that 80 per cent of young girls, by the age of six, believe they lack competence in sports, while young adolescents are among the least active of all Canadians. Armed with such statistics, social entrepreneur Claudine Labelle founded FitSpirit in 2007 to reverse the trend.
FitSpirit is a charity whose mandate is to help teenage girls discover the enjoyment and empowerment that comes from physical activity in an environment that is positive, promotes a healthy self-image and is inclusive. The program focusses on promoting three values: the discovery of the pleasure that comes from being active, healthy eating, and the importance of good self-esteem.
FitSpirit runs programs covering physical activities offered through some 200 secondary schools in Québec and Ontario in 2016. The most popular is an eight-to-ten week program of physical training, nutritional instruction and inspiration from motivational speakers that culminates with the girls successfully completing a five- or a ten-kilometre run.
“By coaching children from low-income areas, I realized how physical activity is an exceptional development tool,” said Ms. Labelle. “Being physically active builds self-esteem and leadership, and when you’re having fun doing an activity, you are even more likely to integrate it in your lifestyle. The subject fascinated me and the many available studies spoke clearly of the need for specific initiatives to address the problem of physical inactivity among young girls. When I founded FitSpirit, and became a social entrepreneur, I faced a great challenge. Gradually, a strong team was formed. Today, hundreds of school program leaders are engaged in the movement and thousands of girls are motivated to move together.”
“Claudine Labelle is a true social entrepreneur, using her business acumen to craft effective social programs in physical fitness,” said John Rae, Executive Vice‑President, Power Corporation. “Through her business-like approach, she has built a community of support for her programs, extending their reach and broadening their appeal.”
FitSpirit also promotes physical activity by partnering with local event organizers or leaders in schools who organize tailor-made opportunities for adolescent girls. Thus, they are encouraged to stay active throughout the year. The organization hopes to expand its reach in the next five years to cover all 10 Canadian provinces.