Life in the Real World

How G.A.I.N.S. Is Changing The Community For The Better

I recently spoke to a friend of mine who aside from being a talented Student-Athlete has started his own non-profit organization to help at-risk youth in the Toronto community. Many students can barely handle being a student alone, Hassan is going above and beyond to help children in his community through the G.A.I.N.S. organization. This organization aims to benefit at-risk youth in the community by providing them the resources to develop leadership skills through sports, excursions and workshops.

The workshops are meant to help teach the youth about finances, pursuing higher education, employment, personal health and maintaining healthy relationships, something that is lacking in many communities throughout the city. The mission is to provide all participants with the resources and help they need to obtain their goals in a healthy and safe manner.


Before we get started about the foundation, why don’t we learn a little more about you as an individual?

My name is Hassan Adenola, I was born and raised in Nigeria. My parents moved myself and my four brothers to Toronto, Ontario when I was in grade 5. I began playing basketball in grade 9, and took it very seriously. I was in the gym doing workouts before and after school. In the summer of grade 11, i was injured, tearing my patellar tendon, a common injury among ballers referred to as “Jumper’s knee”.

Going into grade 12, I had offers to play basketball in the U.S., however I chose to take a year off and focus on getting healthy again and work in order to pay for my post-secondary education. I then chose to stay close to home and attend York University because it was the best decision for me financially, academically and athletically.


Growing up in Toronto, I spent a lot of time in and out of the community centres. This is when I began to see the issues surrounding the children growing up in my community. So I decided to start this program to help at-risk children in my community.


For a lot of people who don’t know much about Toronto and its surrounding communities, they may see it as somewhat of a “rich town”, however there are pockets of lower income housing and less fortunate neighbourhoods. Do you think that these areas are neglected or undermined by the city and by people in general?

I don’t necessarily think that these areas are neglected, because like with any community there are always areas that are less fortunate. However, I do agree that more effort and awareness needs to be put into these areas. There is a lot of money being spent around the city and that is clear to see, however not enough money is being put in the right places, such as these areas. There is more effort in general that needs to be put into the community, not necessarily just financially, but also in terms of programs and support for the children.


What possessed you to start G.A.I.N.S.?

I lived in the society that I am trying to improve, so I know what needs to be done. I could see that the community centre was a really important part of these children’s lives, yet when the community centre closes they have nowhere to go and nothing to do, and this leads them to get involved in some things that they shouldn’t be involved in. So I wanted to be able to create a safe and positive environment for these kids to be able to spend their time.

While talking to these kids, I began to realize that there are certain things that they don’t know, that they should know, simply – everyday questions. There was a lack of education surrounding finance, high school and university education as well as basic communication and leadership skills that they need to excel in life. The sad thing is that they don’t have access to these simple steps in life. That is what I wanted to change – I wanted to solve this issue.


What are the most important aspects of this organization?

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One of the most important things to me was to get them out of the community and into the real world; take them to a university and show them what their future has the potential to be, or simply take them somewhere or do something with them that their families don’t necessarily have the funds for or time to do. This time shows that they are important and that someone cares.

I use sports, in particular basketball, as a vehicle for achievement for these kids, a lot of them have the talent and dedication to play the sport, but that costs a lot of money. Though this isn’t a replacement for a real team or league, it is still giving them all the benefits of playing a team sport, without the expense.

What are your personal career goals and what are your future plans in terms of this organization?

Hopefully, I will graduate with a Kinesiology degree and finish my basketball career by playing professionally overseas. I’d eventually like to go into physiotherapy or chiropractics or perhaps work at an elderly home.

In terms of this organization, I want to see it expand to other communities in need, and benefit as many people as I possibly can. Perhaps even take the kids on an overnight trip or somewhere new. Regardless of my future, I hope to see this organization expand.

What do you think about G.A.I.N.S.? Let us know in the comments!




Dunia Badawi

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