Whether at her fitness studio, Sweat Co., or at Pride, Maureen Wilson is always exercising her advocacy for youth in the 2SLGBTQAI+ community. Sweat Co. has been in Vancouver for 39 years, but this successful studio comes from humble beginnings and personal experiences.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Maureen faced some challenges as a young teen. “My family moved a lot, so I was always changing schools. I had to make new friends everywhere I went. I felt awkward, like an outsider. So, I understand this feeling of not being accepted.”
“I was lost, and moved out of the house when I was a young teen. Things could have gone quite differently for me. Fortunately, I found my passion and I found supportive people that wanted to help me.”
In the early 80s, Maureen decided to go back to dance, an activity that she enjoyed as a child. “I thought, ‘this is my jam!’” Soon, Maureen was teaching up to 15 classes a week. This is when Maureen and her friend decided to open Sweat Co.
Maureen said that the 2SLGBTQAI+ community had always been a part of her world. “It just never occurred to me that other people wouldn’t be as inclusive. There are so many young people who end up on the street because their families won’t accept/love them as their true, authentic selves. I wanted to use my platform to support youth and be a strong ally.”
Maureen’s clients range from 16 to 95 years of age and are from diverse communities. Maureen has trained clients who have been scared to come out to their parents. “I started to see that, wow, we really have a long way to go. And that’s how things shifted for me.”
In 2006, Maureen came to Covenant House to donate some clothes. She witnessed an interaction between a youth who came in seeking food and the staff member behind the desk. The staff member explained to Maureen that having snacks was the beginning of building trust and a rapport with youth. Eventually, staff can talk to youth about the Drop-In Centre, and all of Covenant House’s services and programs.
Maureen said, “That did it for me. I made bad decisions as a young person. It is important to get these young people off the streets, before the predators get to them.”
Not only does Maureen donate to Covenant House Vancouver, but she uses her platform at Sweat Co. to engage with clients who may not understand the plight of youth or the 2SLGBTQAI+ community. She will explain how vital services like Covenant House are in the community. Some of her clients now support Covenant House Vancouver as well.
Maureen encourages everyone to find their passion and philanthropic spirit. “It feels good to give back!” She said. She understands that not everyone can support youth monetarily, so she encourages others to actively engage anyway they can — through volunteering, advocacy, and mentoring, for example. Approximately eight years ago, Maureen became a Big Sister to a young person. “Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can make a world of difference for someone who is struggling.”
Covenant House Vancouver cherishes the support and compassion that Maureen brings to all the young people that we serve.
Thank you, Maureen.
If you’d like to give back, like Maureen, right now is an excellent time. With the generous support of YVR, your gift will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 — doubling your impact and enabling us to serve more youth. Please know that even a small amount makes a significant difference, as your donation will go twice as far in helping young people in our community.
Our Match Campaign ends tomorrow! Donate today!