After overcoming self-doubt, Cole became a blogger, role model and co-creator of an accidental bird-watching club

When Derek first met 13-year-old Cole, he recalls him being a troublemaker. Cole was easily influenced by friends to misbehave and became a distraction in the classroom. “I struggled with ADHD,” says Cole, “I was constantly hyper and found it impossible to focus. It got in the way of my performance at school.” In grade eight, he was placed into a special program for kids who needed extra attention.
        Now, in his final year of high school, Cole admits that being part of the program took a toll on his confidence. He believed that he was a failure. Fortunately, Derek, entered Cole’s life at a critical time, loving him without judgment and allowing him the space to grow and mature into the capable man he is today.

Derek Dovale is a Youth Unlimited youth worker in Surrey. He was running a youth group at Living Hope when the two first bonded. Cole felt an instant connection to Derek. “He has taught me belonging,” Cole says. Cole and Derek have


maintained an impactful mentoring friendship for five years and counting.
        One fond memory Derek has of Cole was when he agreed to help on a swimming day for kids with special needs. Cole spent the day connecting seamlessly with the kids. It wasn’t until they headed to the change rooms when his prosthetic leg became apparent to them. This physical barrier is not something that has ever stopped Cole from participating in activities he enjoys. “There are some things in life that other people might use as an excuse, but nothing holds Cole back,” says Derek.
        Although his learning disability caused Cole to feel insecure as a young teen, his physical disability was not considered a barrier to his success. Cole’s resilience is an inspiration to Derek.

Cole makes a feathered friend


Cole and Derek on one of their epic walks

        Since their mentoring friendship began, Derek has made opportunities available to help develop Cole and build his self-confidence. Over the years, Cole has volunteered at Derek’s wife’s school, helping other kids with social and behavioral problems. He most recently started volunteering with the hamper project in Surrey on Wednesday nights. He accompanies Derek in packaging and delivering food and other necessities to families in need in the community. Cole has learned that by saying “yes!” to opportunities that present themselves and by pushing himself outside his comfort zone, he can see how much more he is truly capable of.

Like all YU staff, the two years of learning to cope with pandemic restrictions did force some new ideas to come to fruition. In the spring, another leader, Tyson, inspired Derek and Cole to embark on nature walks as a way to get out of the house during lockdown. As they explored the area around Green Timbers Park, sometimes with Tyson, they began to notice the wildlife, especially the birds. The trio were enamored and curious. They realized there were probably other youth who might appreciate this adventure opportunity. What started as a mentor meet-up, turned into occasional group birdwatching outings throughout the summer. It got coined at YU as “the accidental birdwatching club.”




        Through that experience Derek could not have been more proud of Cole. Through that time, he inspired other youth to push themselves beyond their comfort and expectations for themselves. “I don’t think he realizes how much of a role model he really is,” he says.

During the pandemic, Cole also developed other outlets. He challenged himself to start a blog, fulfilling one of his long-term goals of sharing his story openly as a means to inspire others. The positive feedback he received from readers reaffirmed his abilities. “A lot of the people I’ve connected with through my blog, youth groups and volunteering, have opened up to me about their personal problems or issues,” says Cole. “I’ve realized that a lot of our struggles are the same. Everyone is not alone in this.”
        Cole, now 18, feels led to follow in Derek’s footsteps and become a youth worker or youth pastor. He is so grateful for the role Derek has played in introducing him to opportunities of growth and self-discovery and helping him strengthen his faith. Cole was recently accepted into YU’s Lifeteams and begins this fall.



Cole on his recent 18th birthday, showing off unique skills with his prosthetic



Our new Vancouver drop-in centre is now open! Located in South Vancouver, in one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in Greater Vancouver, the centre aims to benefit underprivileged immigrant and minority youth. Running in collaboration with Peace Church Vancouver, it offers homework support, board games, and outdoor trips and activities. To learn more about this new space, email Chris at




Do you know a young person who might be a bit ‘stuck’? Someone who could use wise mentorship, genuine friendship, and the opportunity to step into discipleship? Our new immersive program, Lifehouse, will begin its second cohort in September 2022. This communal, three-month, gap-year program is designed for youth ages 17-21 to provide a tutorial on life, in authentic community, while receiving mentorship from Christ-following leaders. Learn more or register:


Pick up the phone – the course is calling! We are pleased to invite you to Youth Unlimited’s 32nd annual golf tournament on Wednesday, June 1st. Held at Northview Golf & Country Club, golfers can expect a beautiful course, a gourmet meal, and a remarkable silent auction while raising funds for vulnerable youth. Thankfully, we are able to return to our shotgun start and communal banquet this year, and we can’t wait to be there, together. Register your foursome or yourself:

*Stay tuned for more information about the Young Families picnic and fundraiser event for families, volunteers, partners and new friends on Saturday, May 28.











It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon as I rolled up to the Lonsdale skateboard park. My son Lucas started rolling around straight away and I plopped myself down beside an older skateboard dude who was taking a break. As I laced up my shoes in preparation to skate with my son, I noticed the guy beside me start to meticulously roll a series of joints. Minutes later, he offered to smoke them with me. I politely declined and then commented on his beautiful act of generosity. We got into a conversation about how the Creator designed us to be generous and how it’s in us to give. I vividly remember him nodding his head in agreement but also with a contemplative look on his face.

Many of us have a phrase or quote or sacred scripture to help guide our daily lives. I am drawn to the words of Jesus as quoted in the book of Matthew 5:13,14 (MSG):

“Let me tell you why you are here, you’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. “Here’s another way to put it, you’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world.”

Most of life’s biggest questions center around our life’s purpose. Jesus says we are here to bring out the God flavours and colours in our world. We are all made in the likeness and image of the Creator and so these God colours exist in us all.

At Youth Unlimited we love to help young people see the God colours within them and help draw them out so they too can discover their purpose. We don’t always get to see the impact of these interactions with youth; I have no idea what happened to my young pot smoking friend, but for young people like Cole (Connections feature story) the God flavours and colours are now on full display.

Thank you for making it possible for these transformative relationships to develop. Your generous financial and prayer support ensures that we will be here for another 75 years, helping young people discover their potential and purpose.

Forever grateful,

Mark Koop




Executive Director