Mark Winterbottom -Prodrive Racing (Australia) V8 Supercars driver and one of Australia's most-recognised athletes -has announced Doonside (NSW) based charity, Eagles RAPS Inc. as his nominated charity.
Having grown up in Doonside, 'Frosty' has seen some of the difficult circumstances faced by young people in the area, and wants to give back to the community.
Eagles RAPS dedicates itself to preventing youth suicide and operates an education centre from Doonside in Western Sydney. It was established in 1997 in response to the suicide of two young people in the area.
The major function of Eagles RAPS is to provide an education program for young people who cannot attend mainstream school for various reasons, including family abuse, bullying, dealing with chronic illness, family tragedy, young motherhood and mental illness or disability.
The organisation also offers support to young people in need of assistance in many different ways including counseling, assistance in finding accommodation, education and training and recreational facilities.
"Growing up as a local Doonside boy, I witnessed the challenges faced by many teenagers in the area, so in selecting a charity to represent I wanted to give back to my home town and support Eagles RAPS for the valuable work they do," current V8 Supercars Championship leader Winterbottom said.
"I look forward to helping them continue to make positive differences to the lives of highly-disadvantaged people and show the students they can achieve great things in their life."
Eagles RAPS students attend a self-paced, flexible learning centre where they can complete their Year 10 equivalent studies, HSC, or various vocational courses.
All young people are individually case managed to address barriers and issues in their lives and are supported by qualified staff and volunteers.
All students are also put through OTEN-TAFE, the distance education branch of TAFE, so they receive accredited education.
Eagles RAPS received Federal Government Funding from2006-2009 under the Connections program, and then received Youth Connections funding from 2010 to 2014 in partnership with Marist Youth Care. The Federal Government ceased the Youth Connections program in 2014 and withdrew the funding to many organisations across Australia.
The withdrawal of funding for many similar services has placed increased demand on the valuable services that Eagles RAPS provides.
Eagles RAPS representation, Sally Wynd says the organisation is extremely grateful, honored and humbled at Winterbottom's support.
"He can inspire these young people in a way that only a local boy could," Wynd said.
"He is proof that you don't have to come from privileged beginnings to achieve and that commitment to a dream can bring success. We are very proud to have him along for the ride."
"Our hopes for the future are to expand our services to meet the needs of the ever-growing number of young people who are finding teenage years increasingly difficult, both geographically, to service the fast-growing expansion of Sydney's western suburbs, and to expand the content to better meet the needs and new challenges that young people face in a rapidly changing world."
Winterbottom will work closely with the charity in many different aspects including visits to the centre to talk to its students, assistance with fundraising and promoting the charity nationally across the racing season.