For Detective Senior Sergeant John Dalton, restarting Bendigo Blue Light three years ago was a simple idea.
"I was fortunate to go on a Blue Light sponsored excursion to New Zealand and that really gave me the passion and drive to start something back up here," Senior Sergeant Dalton said.
"We had some issues with the kids down at Hargreaves Mall and around the shopping centres and I thought, don't they have a place to go to?
"Do they engage with police outside of us being in uniform? And there wasn't anything.
"So that was the inspiration really - to provide a place in Bendigo where kids could feel safe but also engage with the police and community."
The Bendigo organisation started out by going and identifying young people who could benefit from Blue Light.
But Sergeant Adam Woods, who was integral to the organisation's resurgence in the region, said Bendigo support services now provide assistance.
"A lot of the agencies around Bendigo have gotten on board with what we're doing because they have recognised the good work we do," Sergeant Woods said. "We have these agencies that are bringing kids to us all of the time.
"They see the ones who are at risk and the ones who probably need a little bit of guidance to get them through to employment."
But Bendigo Blue Light is not only a place for children and teenagers who are struggling.
"We have a really good combination of kids who are disadvantaged but also some real leaders as well," Senior Sergeant Dalton said. "There's no point having a whole group of kids that have troubled lives.
"We want to use other kids - and we are - as mentors and leaders in the community, kids that are leaders in youth groups and that sort of stuff.
"So it's not just about us adults mentoring, it's about the kids as well."
Blue Light Victoria was established in 1976 as an independent organisation for young people. The group has partnered with Victoria Police to create 35 branches across the state, with 23,000 young people attending a Blue Light event or program in Victoria each year.
But while Blue Light is often associated with the police-run discos of the 1980s, the Bendigo organisation wanted to find an alternative focus.
"To be honest, I associated Blue Light with the discos like a lot of people did," Sergeant Woods said. "For me, that was a thing of the past.
"As good as it was back in the 1980s and '90s, I thought it wasn't as relevant today. Then I did some research into what the other organisations do and I know police have been associated with boxing programs.
"I have a bit of an interest in boxing too so I could see something like that being beneficial for Bendigo."
Bendigo Blue Light partnered up with the Hit Factory in Golden Square to start a youth boxing program. The centre's head coach Danniel Burton was right on board with the program from the very start.
"I had been doing something similar with the youth for a long time but to get an organisation on board, that's the cream," Mr Burton said. "Boxing is definitely hard work but the kids that are coming through are really willing to have a crack at it so it's great."
Bendigo Blue Light has children from as young as seven all the way through to 16 years old participating in boxing classes five days a week.
Sam Kay, 13, is one of the children who have benefited from Bendigo Blue Light boxing. He started the program 18 months ago and has loved every minute of it.
"I really like the experience," he said. "I've made lots of friends and it's given me a lot of confidence."
Mr Kay started doing amateur fights after taking boxing classes through Bendigo Blue Light.
"I've had six fights and I've had three wins and three losses," he said. "The fights are mostly in Melbourne but I had one in Tasmania which I won. I wouldn't have started fighting if I didn't start boxing here."
Xavier Collins, 13, has also been boxing at Bendigo Blue Light for the past eight months.
"I like everything about it," he said. "It's really fun and it's getting me fit. I've made a couple of friends out of it and it's helped me feel more protected when I go out."
While the boxing program has been so successful for the organisation, Senior Sergeant Dalton and Sergeant Woods said they were looking to expand Bendigo Blue Lights' services for the region's youth.
"At the start of the year, the committee came together and we said, are we going to keep doing what we're doing or are we going to ramp it up?" Senior Sergeant Dalton said.
"What we really want to do is provide Bendigo with a centre that's like a youth hub, so the youth can come here and get better employment opportunities, they can get fit and healthy, and engage with police in a different environment."
The two police officers have begun plans to create the new hub at the Hit Factory, with the focus on giving children the opportunity to thrive.
"We'll have a cafe called Brewlight which we will eventually have run by the kids," Senior Sergeant Dalton said. "We will give them barista courses and hospitality courses.
"We have some good connections through TAFE so there will be some employment opportunities."
The centre will also have a skateboard ramp and a basketball court outside, as well as a fun drop-in zone with computers where the children can come and relax, catch up on some homework, or build up resumes.
"We're keen to bring back the real core of adults teaching kids how to do things," Senior Sergeant Dalton said. "Things like how to look someone in the eye and talk to them, how to do a handshake, and how to fix a wheel on a car."
Senior Sergeant Dalton said Bendigo Blue Light's new youth hub could be a game-changer for the region.
"We don't think there's a place in Bendigo where it's all in the one shop," he said.
"There's a lot of different venues but this will be a place where it's far enough away from the town so the kids will have to make an effort to get here.
"It essentially will be a place where kids can get opportunities."
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