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Canadian band reimagines Village People's Y.M.C.A. with youth mental health focus

A timeless disco tune is getting a soulful twist as part of a youth mental health program through the YMCA.

Canadian indie pop band Walk off the Earth is known for creative covers of classic hits featuring beautiful harmonies and a wide-array of instruments.

When they were approached by the YMCA to reinvent the Village People's original Y.M.C.A. song, the band says it was a no-brainer.

"When we found out it was to benefit mental health in teens, instantly, we were like, 'Absolutely yes, this sounds amazing,'" said lead singer Sarah Blackwood.

"We all grew up going to the YMCA. ... Now, Gianni (Blackwood's husband and bandmate) and I have three kids who also go to the YMCA for different things and activities. It's just such a wonderful place in our community."

While the song may sound different, the majority of the original lyrics remain, with the aim of highlighting today's need for community and open dialogue surrounding mental health.

"I think it did something really special for the song," said Samantha Hartley-Folz, YMCA BC's vice-president of community operations.

"All of us feel stress and worry in our lives ... but sometimes, there's that message of, 'Don't worry, be happy,' or, 'Just keep going,' and we want youth to say, 'It's OK to feel stressed or worried.'"

Hartley-Folz says youth also should still be able to do all the activities they want to do in their lives and that community programs like Y Mind are part of that equation.

Y Mind boasts several programs at YMCAs across the country and online for youths and young adults, aimed at offering both preventive or early-intervention-based mental health services free of charge.

Cameron Norek, 13, is an avid user of Calgary's YMCAs and aspires to be a counsellor at the Y in a few years.

While conversations around mental health can still be a struggle, she is encouraged knowing there is a support service in her community.

"It definitely helps and makes you feel better knowing that you can get help or even just talk to someone," Norek said.

Canadian indie pop band Walk off the Earth has reinvented the Village People's original Y.M.C.A. song. (Courtesy: The Village People/YouTube)

As for the new Y.M.C.A. cover, Norek says it hits all the right notes.

"I thought it was really cool how they added mental health into it and they talked about how the Y is just a free place you can go to, to help you with stress and anxiety," she said.

In just three weeks, the cover has already reached nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

More details about Y Mind, available at 22 YMCA Associations across Canada, can be found here. Top Stories

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