Martial arts instructor Col Osborn's aim to pass on his skills and knowledge to autistic children has received a significant boost thanks to a $3000 donation from the Samuel Brett Nelson Kickstart Foundation.
The grant will allow Mr Osborn to offer autistic children from the local area a number of free individual sessions designed to equip them with practical self-defence skills and improved self-esteem.
Samuel Brett Nelson Kickstart Foundation founders, Steve and Nikki Nelson, said donating to a cause like Mr Osborn's was a no-brainer for the Forster-based charity, which was increasingly looking to support programs that focussed on youth mental health.
"If you can keep a child out of long-term mental health issues, that's gold," Mr Nelson said.
Related: Back fighting the good fight
Mr Osborn said the program - entitled Autism Skills Development - would primarily focus on high school-aged students, as that was when autistic children were most likely to become isolated from their peer groups and be targeted for bullying.
Having recently completed a number of courses related to assisting students with autism, the Forster MMA owner said the rates of bullying and predation among autistic children were significantly higher than among non-autistic children.
"Our aim is to give autistic kids of high school age the ability to defend themselves against bullies and predators," Mr Osborn said.
"We'll build self-confidence and a sense of worth while teaching them real life skills and helping them enjoy the beauty of better movement."
With a number of children already lined up, Mr Osborn says he'll look to kick the program off in the September school holidays.
You may also like: Crafty people meeting high demands for reusable face masks
He hopes it will have a positive and long-lasting impact, much like his Confident Kids program, which has just received a $5000 grant from Club Forster to run for another year.
Given the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry, Mr Osborn says he wasn't expecting to receive a grant this year, despite Club Forster supporting the program since its inception.
Now in its fifth year, the Confident Kids program has seen Mr Osborn work with close to 300 bullied or low self-esteem children to increase their confidence and self-defence skills.
He believes it has "made a huge difference for a lot of kids."
Any parents interested in getting their children involved in the Autism Skills Development program should contact Forster MMA on 0427 672 676.
Stay ahead with local news by signing up for the Great Lakes Advocate newsletter here.