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Flamborough Paint Challenge: An obstacle course with a purpose

Event raises funds for Healthy Youth Network and inspires hope in teens

June 26th marks the 7th annual Flamborough Paint Challenge, an obstacle course where participants run through bursts of colourful powder as they wind their way through the park.

The challenge — which also has mini-games like spike ball, cornhole, and giant Jenga — raises money for the Healthy Youth Network (HYN). While the event is lighthearted and fun, it has a serious purpose: to connect youth to helping adults at the HYN, which changed Gary Keith Holmes, founder of the event, life’s path.


When Holmes was in grade 7, he already had multiple criminal records and had his stomach pumped due to excessive drinking. By high school, he was homeless, living in a tent in the woods behind Waterdown High.

"I was addicted to drugs. I was hopeless and had plans to end my life," he says.

It was then, in 2015, that he met Penny Deathe, founder of the Healthy Youth Network. At this point, Holmes was at risk of not graduating and had been expelled, arrested, and extremely disruptive in the past few years. The HYN invited Holmes to a training session they were hosting with police liaison officers. Although Holmes's past with the police made him reluctant to go, at the end of the session, he stood up and asked the police why they didn't respect him, and a conversation began.

"Penny saw something in me and told me that I had value and talents that I wasn't using. She said I had a purpose in life, and together, we could start to figure out what that was. It took years of her and others consistently investing in me, but my life started to turn around," Holmes says.

He also realized his love for partying could be used for something positive, which is when he came up with the idea of the paint challenge. As Holmes started planning the event, his focus changed, and he felt a sense of purpose.

"People were interested and enthusiastic about my idea and wanted to help me make it a reality – not just build it for me, but help me build it," he says.

Holmes has now finished his first year of college and graduated with honours — debt-free.

"I'm finally proud of my accomplishments and the person I've become," he says. "So don't give up on those teens you may see as a problem; sometimes we just need some help to find our focus. Now I see the importance of community, and I want other kids to as well."


The Flamborough Paint Challenge, located at Joe Sam's Park, aims to raise $35,000 this year, with the funds going toward several of its programs, including the youth-led H.E.A.R.T program, What’s Your Path, which helps young people refine their skills and find their passions, and the Youth Portal and Parent Place, which connects youth and parents to resources, information and opportunities.

You can register online here and visit the event home page to learn more about its fundraising goals.

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