Everyday Hero: Brad Leslie of Young Men’s Adventure Weekend - YMAW


A: Tell us about yourself?

B: I am Canadian born and English bred, and have spent 37 years as a Realtor, winning many awards during that time. I have a son and daughter, and 3 grandsons. I was in a rock and roll band in England, and we opened for all the big bands like Rod Steward and Joe Cocker. I was also at Who Live at Leeds. My parents worked for the Canadian government in UK, and I attended a Harry Potter style of school – Leeds Grammar School for Boys.


A: What was the Impetus to start your group?

B: I started in Real Estate in 1975, and did every personal development and business/sales training course available between 1970 - 1990. Around that time, I began to organize some men’s events. Then one friend, Andy Vine, famously said 
“We should do a weekend event just for teenagers”, I replied “LET’S DO IT !! ”. So we co-founded The Young Men's Weekend. Andy was around for a few years, and I kept going with it. In truth, the darn thing wouldn’t leave me alone!

Screen shot 2014-12-20 at 9.42.19 PM
A: Why is initiation important?

B: The purpose of initiation to is to wake up the MAN inside the teenager. To go from the mother’s world, where the child is a dependent, to a Man’s World. Here he is accountable; someone useful, capable, and one who contributes to society. If you look around the streets, teenage males have a tough time finding the support they need to become successful men. Youth have very few role models to look up to, and even less support. Back in the day, the Uncles would take all the young men to the mountains and put them through rites of passage. The elder men put major challenges in front of these young men, to draw out the Man inside, and welcoming them into manhood.

Screen shot 2014-12-20 at 9.42.49 PM
A: What inspired you to keep going?

B: When we started our first rites of passage in May 1990, we put together a program with physical challenges and threw some spiritual things in. The weekend is usually 3 days, from Friday afternoon til Sunday evening. Our operations and programming for the weekend kept evolving, and has developed a life of its own. We have discovered that it is a vital part of the development of society. And it is a lot of FUN!!

Screen shot 2014-12-20 at 9.46.55 PM
A: Could you please elaborate?

B: If it was just me, I would have given up, but serendipity and dreams happened and dragged me along. A council of devas are supporting us in running it, they whisper everything to me from how to run it, to where to have it, who can help, etc.


A: How often do you have these events?

B: Every July in Vancouver. Other people have heard and started their own events similar all over North America. There is nothing new about young men’s initiation/ rites of passage as a cultural tradition, it’s part of every indigenous culture. I have been here for 25 years, and will continue to drive this work. It is so vitally important, for the teens, but more for Society.

Screen shot 2014-12-20 at 9.43.07 PM
A: What does manhood mean?

B: How does the grumpy 13 years old teenage boy who slouches a lot, mumbles a lot, wears baggy jeans goes to become a man? One who can give a strong handshake, that looks you in the eye, be responsible, capable, motivated, good in business, good with family, makes good income, and contributes to his community. We seek to bring out these qualities within the 13 year old male teenager. Those qualities are already THERE – INSIDE the teenager waiting to be called forth and used, we help these young men find them and bring it out. WE know that the Good Man is already inside the Boy, yearning to get out and be all that he can be.


A: What does their transformation look like?

B: They gather at Central Park in Burnaby on a Friday afternoon. These 50 teenagers are grumpy, and don’t want to be there. We take them way out in the mountains, near a lake and we live as band of about 100 Men and teens in the Wilderness. Just being out there is tricky enough, then we throw the challenges at them. When they come back from the weekend, the act as though they had won the Superbowl. They are hugging each other, smiling, looking you in the eye, and have strong handshakes.


A: What do they experience?

B: A total wilderness setting with nothing, we take a 5 ton truck full of our equipment and our cook shack and go living in the wilderness near a lake in the forest. Just breathing Green Air is very trans-formative. We put them in teams and put them through challenge for 2 days.


A: What do the elder men do to demonstrate good male qualities?

B: This event is not therapy, but often it’s therapeutic. We do have ways to address the tough parts of life. We put them into teams, the nature of being a team makes them practice leadership, cooperation, responsible for tasks completion, creativity to think for the greater good of the team. The men do not teach or say anything to the teens, we do not lecture. It’s up to them to discover within themselves the good qualities that make a good men.


A: What happens when there is a rebel?

B: The team will take care of it themselves. If trouble comes up, we mediate to get them to empower themselves to find the solution. We help them find their own sense of fairness, ethics, justice etc. More than half of them have never seen this before.

A: Is the premise that we’re all good to start with?

B: Every teenager can be a great man. We know that


A: How many young men have come through?

B: Thousands, in 25 years in BC, plus our affiliates and offshoot organizations.

A: Has there been any crying?

B: We have seen the whole emotional range are involved in the weekend from hilarious laughing, total grief loss, rage, respect, and humility over the weekends. We actively encourage experiencing the full emotional spectrum.


A: How do you measure your success?

B: With ALL Mentors, we never know the impact that we have on the young men. Things may show up weeks or years later
. At least once a year I get a call from a mom or a teenager. Once, a Young Man named Levi, called when he’s 20 he had attended the young men’s weekend two years in a row. He told me that after he had done his weekend, he stopped his bad habits, moved back into the house and went back to school, got an apprenticeship program. “I’m graduating next week and I couldn’t have done it without you guys, would you please come to my graduation. “ Three of us put our best suits on, and went to the grad”. For the volunteers, it awakens the Mentoring Bone, once it’s activated, you can’t shut it down. It’s an attitude to help wherever they can, it can be helping someone to paint a wall, or fix a car, however it manifest in life. Because we KNOW we can make a difference



A: Any side benefits?

B: The Next Generation of adult Men need all the help that they can get. All successful men can point to an older man who helped them, a sports coach, an uncle who took them fishing, a teacher. The men of the village have never been called to be Mentors, they don’t know it’s a really important role to assistant children and teenagers to grow up in a good way. School /sports coaches is the best we have now. Initiation and Rites of Passage are not part of our culture.

These weekends DO make a difference, we have seen it. Being sustained for 25 years attests to the relevance of the events. For me, I have learned a ton doing this work. I’m a member of a council of elders, the KingMakers, working with other Young Mens Weekend Events. We assist in the development of the next generation of men, by supporting any new event in any town in Canada and USA. I travel and visit other young men’s group gatherings around Canada and United States. About 1,000 young men goes through these initiations in North America every year, usually in groups of 25 - 50.


A: From anthropology, we know cultures sometimes conduct circumcision, or get these male teens to fight a lion or other crazy activities. Anything like that at your retreat?

B: That is their thing, in their culture. They come across strange to our sensibilities, but it makes sense to their culture, or else they would not keep doing it.. There is no physical pain component to what we do, unless they fall out of tree or something.

A: What kind of impact has the initiation had on its participants?

B: We had a Russian single mom with 2 sons back in 1999, they were always getting trouble with the law and school. During the weekend they were nothing but trouble. The following Wednesday night after the retreat, their mother called me in tears. She wanted to know if we had done a religious conversion on them. Her sons were cleaning up their rooms, going to school, and helping out around the house. A complete turn around from how they were before the weekend.


A: How has this affected your relationship with your son?

B: My son did his first initiation at age 11, and has come along every year since. Now he helps out with the website, video production and will coordinate next years’ young men’s weekend.

: Anything else you’d like to share?

B: We have received many awards: 2010 - Paul Harris Fellows Award, Rotary International;
2006 - Certificate of Merit. Art of Living Foundation; 2004 - President’s Award, Mensa Canada.
It makes me feel awkward, but it is important that this work has been recognized in society.

: What would you like to see in the near future for Young Men’s Weekend?

B: I wish society understands the importance of initiation and rites of passage to create good men. 
Ultimately, there would be a place for every teenager to go “up the Mountain”. I would like to see it available every weekend all year round, as they all need all the help they can get
. They are worth it, society needs it, and it is not rocket science. We just need a few more good men to step up and do a great job

A: How are you different from Big Brothers?

B: We’re different from Big Brothers, which services a younger audience. 
We are identical in context / Vision – older men Mentoring the youth. We are different in Content - they are an afternoon a week for years, we are a wild weekend in the forest.

A: Why don’t you do these more often?

B: If God or government gives me a lot of money to do it, I’ll do it. We break even after all the costs and volunteer hours, not counting my hours. It’s funny I make good money in my day job, selling houses, but enhancing and saving lives. Helping change lives... there is no money in that.

Take a look at our website www.ymaw.com for more info





Last Updated ( Monday, 09 February 2015 )
< Prev   Next >