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A running program focused on promoting resilience in youth.

The program

Bison Run Club was born out of a desire to create connection among youth.  We believe that time spent on trails connects us to the land, our body and mind.  This welcoming and supportive trail running program has been developed in consultation with a team of community leaders with expertise in mental health, running and youth services programming.  This initiative will focus on creating connection, and promoting physical and mental health through coaching, mentorship and evidence-informed strategies.  The skills and experience gained from this program will focus on promoting resilience in youth.  All selected participants will receive a club shirt, and, if required to be able to participate, a pair of running shoes.  Should participants require transportation support to and from the location (trails behind Lakehead University) please let us know.

Who is this program designed for?

This running program is for any 14-17 year olds interested in gaining skills and connection with others while promoting their physical and mental health through mentorship, coaching and evidence-informed strategies.

How is mental health support addressed?

Through guided mentorship and group discussions, youth will explore various topics, known to promote positive mental health, such as emotional wellness, adaptive skills, and goal setting. It is important to note that this is not a mental health treatment program.  A list of community resources will be provided to all youth, should they be interested in seeking out mental health services.

Do I need to be an experienced runner to participate?

What matters is not your speed or endurance, but rather, your commitment to learning, showing up and participating in the workouts and group discussions.  A head coach will design daily workouts and youth will be supported by mentors to achieve their goals.  

Tell me more about the running part.

No participant will ever be on their own. The groups will follow a structured running program each day, including a warm up, the daily workout and a cool down (30 min total active time). Running may be continuous or in intervals, based on the day's goal. Youth will have an opportunity to reflect on their day, and journal their experiences before and after each run, and will have snacks provided following each run.  

How do I join the club?

Parents, guardians or supporting adults may submit applications through our online form.

The program is FREE and is limited to 20 youth participants.  Our committee will review applications and contact selected individuals.  Applications will be primarily based on a first-come first-serve basis as well as the expressed participant interest during the application phase.  

Program Dates


Initiative by:

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Program Goals

  • Increased emotional wellness and level of connectedness

  • Increased overall level of self-confidence

  • Adaptive skills development

  • Promote outdoor physical activity

  • Increased awareness of available mental health support services

  • Increased Resilience

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Antonio Stefanile, Program Manager & Facilitator

Antonio is the owner of UpRiver Running and founder of Bison Run Club. For years, running has provided physical and mental wellness and has helped him forge lifelong friendships. These have helped Antonio build resilience and with the support of the team, he looks forward to connecting with youth through running. Outside of running and his career in Education, he loves spending time with his family and exploring the great outdoors.


Amanda Stefanile, Program Advisor & Facilitator

Amanda is the Achievement Program Coordinator in the Department of Athletics at Lakehead University.  Amanda has 10 years of experience facilitating youth programs in the region and is passionate about working with individuals to promote physical activity, and personal growth. As a former varsity athlete, sport has always been a part of her life, and provide a space to learn valuable skills that can be used in everyday life.  Amanda enjoys spending time outside with her two kiddos and husband Antonio.

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Dr. Andrew Smith, Program Advisor & Sponsor

Andrew is a father, husband, and avid trail runner. Having previously competed internationally in multi-sport events and nationally in cross-country, he now finds solace on the trail. In his spare time, he is a bariatric and minimally-invasive surgeon at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

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Dr. Aislin Mushquash, Ph.D., C.Psych
Program Advisor

Dr. Mushquash is a Registered Clinical Psychologist with Dilico Anishinabek Family Care. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University. Dr. Mushquash supported early discussions and decisions around the mental health-related content for the Bison Run Club.

A Bison Runner sees strength in unity, and applies their mental and physical strength to conquer adversity. 

A Bison Runner is a Resilient Runner.
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